Davutoğlu got the good news at a tense time
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had been waiting for days for this good news from the European Union about visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
It came as part of the broader immigration deal with Brussels, but it was Davutoğlu’s idea to bring it forward to June, rather than October, that would make it his success.
Turkey has been under EU visa requirements practically since the military coup in 1980. They were first imposed partly to punish military rule in Turkey (from which the people suffered) and partly to stop a possible flow of political and economic migrants from Turkey. Now, if visas are going to be lifted by the European Council in line with the European Commission’s advice, it would be to stop another wave of migration triggered by the civil war in Syria - this time with Turkey playing the stopper role.
The full integration of Turkey into the EU is still a distant dream, but visa-free travel might be an important step to strengthen the bonds - as important as the Customs Union.
Having secured the deal on March 18, Davutoğlu returned from Brussels happy, hoping that he would deliver the good news on May 4 and enjoy the satisfaction of delivering a promise to the Turkish people.
But that good news came at a tense time, as he was preparing for a meeting late on May 4 with President Tayyip Erdoğan that has been perceived by the public as a “take it or leave it” moment.
The reason for this tension was a move last week by the executive body of the party he chairs, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), to take back the authority to appoint local party heads and organizations. It seems that out of 50 members of the executive, 47 signed the motion. In a dramatic speech he delivered on May 3 addressing his party group in parliament, Davutoğlu said he did not get into politics for “personal interests,” adding that he would not hesitate to leave any post and could step aside if necessary.
That was interpreted in the political corridors of Ankara as a signal that he might leave his job. According to news that leaked from an AK Parti executive committee meeting on the same evening, when asked about a resignation Davutoğlu was reported as saying that he had yet to make a decision.
Just a few hours before receiving Davutoğlu in the presidential compound, Erdoğan said in an address to village and neighborhood leaders that it is “important to remember how you got to your post” in the first place and how you deliver. This was not directly addressed to Davutoğlu but it sparked speculation, as it was Erdoğan who hand-picked Davutoğlu to succeed him in 2014 before being elected president.
Now Ankara is preparing for a new set of political circumstances, which might take a few days to be seen clearly. But one thing is certain: Davutoğlu unfortunately could not enjoy the EU visa-free travel news as much as he had been hoping.