How will the crisis with Europe end?

How will the crisis with Europe end?

Bilateral crises with European countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands are causing serious destruction in Turkey’s EU membership process. Turkey-EU relations are going through their worst period since the European Council meeting in Luxembourg on Dec. 12-13, 1997. EU countries are discussing suspension of the negotiations that began 13 years ago.

Some of my readers have sent me messages that I can roughly summarize as: “We have understood there is a crisis with the EU, but write about how this crisis will be resolved.” I do not have a prescription on how it will be overcome. However, I can tell how crises have been overcome in the past by reminding of the roadmap of Turkey-EU relations, which I had followed non-stop for 22 years.

Relations broken off 22 years ago

I had followed the European Council meeting in Luxembourg as the diplomacy correspondent of daily Radikal. “Starting full membership negotiations with 10 former Eastern bloc countries, the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus and Malta” was on the agenda. It was expected that Turkey would be included in the EU enlargement process but EU leaders did not give passage to that. Despite Turkey’s harsh objection, it was also decided that full membership negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus would be launched.

Mesut Yılmaz was the prime minister and all the European journalists who were following the meeting were asking us: “Will Yılmaz come?” Yılmaz did not attend the meeting but his plane landed in Brussels while heading to the U.S. and he addressed the EU from the EU capital: “We are breaking off the political dialogue with the EU. If you start negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus, we will launch the unification process with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

That day, the EU Council had announced it would not begin negotiations with Turkey due to “political and economic reasons.” That meant Turkey had not met the Copenhagen Criteria in the political field and also failed to meet the Maastricht Criteria in the economic field, according to the EU.

The crisis on that day was resolved two years later. In the cold of Finland, we, journalists who were following the Helsinki Summit on Dec. 10-11, 1999, returned with one good news and two bad news.
Turkey had been declared a “candidate” but full membership negotiations did not begin. Negotiations with the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus had officially been launched.

AK Parti’s reform success

The fate of relations changed during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government period, which had clinged itself to the EU agenda. During the EU summit in Helsinki in Dec. 2004, it was stated Turkey had largely completed its adaptation to the Copenhagen Criteria and it was declared that the accession negotiations with Turkey would be launched without delay. The fact the AKP fully implemented reforms after the 2001 economic crisis paved the way for the country to also reach the economic criteria.

The AKP governments passed eight harmonization packages from the parliament between 2002 and 2009 to meet the political criteria. Capital punishment was abolished during the same period. Re-trial in line with the European Court of Human Rights decisions was accepted. International conventions were regarded above the domestic law. The status of the National Security Council was changed and the right to personal application to the Constitutional Court had been brought.

The issue of knowing one’s own faults before blaming others for theirs 

While all those developments were happening, the EU implemented many double-standards on Turkey. However, the AKP governments did not decelerate on their road to the EU until 2009 despite all those implementations. President Tayyip Erdoğan said, “We will make those standards Ankara standards and continue our way, if required,” and continued his way. Erdoğan’s stance in favor of dialogue even softened Merkel’s attitude, who had sharply objected to Turkey’s full membership.

Today the scene has changed 180 degrees. Yes, the EU countries’ attitude regarding FETÖ (Fethullahist Terror Organization) and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terror organizations is disturbing. They deserve to be blamed for their faults. But, it should not be forgotten that the fundamental human rights issues, such as “arrested journalists,” “freedom of thought and expression” and the “right to a fair trial” that we thought had become a thing of the past due to reforms by the AKP governments from 2002 to 2009, have begun to be a problem again. If we had known our own faults and had turned the EU criteria into Ankara criteria, we would have been much stronger in telling them of their mistakes regarding FETÖ and the PKK and their lies and hypocrisy.