Remembering the Europe we forgot about

Remembering the Europe we forgot about

Analyses predicting that the civil war in Syria will not end easily and quickly, and may not even end at all, started coming in the summer of 2013. 

I have written several times in this column that, in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests, the only way out for Turkey was to prioritize democratization and the building of a pluralist society.

Two major events of chaos came between Turkey and the vast Arab regions. Even if we leave aside the political effects of this chaos and look only into its commercial effects, the visible future for the region did not look very bright.

However, Turkey’s own agenda - more precisely, the double election campaign period along with the Gezi incidents - dominated attention. The democratization move initiated in the fall of 2013 hit turbulence with the Dec. 17 and 25 of 2013 investigations.

With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan elected president and Ahmet Davutoğlu becoming the prime minister, a new era started. The first test of this era will be the general elections at June 2015.

The fact that Volkan Bozkır has become the EU minister in the Davutoğlu government has a symbolic and practical importance. Bozkır was a diplomat who undertook very critical roles right at the center of the process of at the start of Turkey's full membership negotiations with the EU. Later, he served as Turkey’s permanent representative ambassador at the EU, and was elected as a deputy for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2011 elections.

To appoint a figure like Bozkır to the position at the top of the EU Ministry was an open sign of turning to Europe. Also, he made a powerful start, issuing written strategy documents on every relevant topic.

Most importantly, Davutoğlu, as a revolutionary step for the Turkish system, demanded that all bills to be prepared by all ministries must seek the opinion of the EU Ministry.

EU Minister Bozkır has gone to Brussels four times, spoken to EU commissioners, visited Vienna and Oslo; he is meeting the prime minister of Luxembourg as I write this.

The return to the Europe we had forgotten, ignored, stopped visiting…

It will take time to mend what has been broken and fix the damaged image, but for Turkey to become visible again in Europe, for Turkey to show that it is again clinging onto its EU target, no matter how difficult it is, is very important in terms of our domestic dynamics.

Bozkır’s attempts alone are not adequate. With other Cabinet ministers - and primarily the prime minister - visiting Europe more and frequently, this move should be carried further. Davutoğlu, for instance, will start his Europe tours with Greece in the coming days.

“Tayyip Erdoğan used to have friends and friendships in Europe. But then time elapsed, the meetings lessened, summits were not attended and these friendships diminished. These relationships should be recovered one by one. Also, one needs to talk face to face,” one diplomat told me. He is quite right.