Reading the EU call to Turkey correctly

Reading the EU call to Turkey correctly

The first question in mind after finishing reading the European Union enlargement “Progress Report” on Turkey was: What kind of a report would it have been if Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan had not revealed his Sept. 30 “democratization package”?

Probably, we would be talking about one of the most critical reports in recent years regarding the political atmosphere in Turkey. It is evident from the fact that, apart from the promises that Erdoğan gave with the “package,” it would be difficult to find any praised field apart from cultural rights for non-Muslim minorities and partly the dialogue initiative by the government for a political solution to the Kurdish problem.

It seems that Erdoğan’s half-full glass package has served as a last minute move to save Turkey from a more bitter report and the EU from releasing one that could further sever relations with Turkey, which are already not in a bright stage after 50 years in the waiting room. In particular, Erdoğan’s underlining the concept of the package as being in more harmony with EU legislation seemingly gave a reason for Brussels to make a point about the Turkish government’s commitment to continue reforms. For the report, released on Oct. 16, there were praising entries about the return of the Mor Gabriel Monastry to the Syriacs on Oct. 7 and lifting of the primary school oath on Oct. 8.

The first section of the report, titled “Democracy and Rule of Law,” starts with the Gezi Park protests in late May, and the subject appears on many other sections as well. According to the EU report, “Overall, the demonstrations were peaceful, despite the involvement of a small number of violent protestors.”
The report says the Gezi Park demonstrations have “reflected [an] emergence of vibrant, active citizenry” in Turkey, representing the most open praise ever by an international body so far regarding the largest wave of protests ever in Turkey, which have been condemned by the government as being “ill-intentioned.”

Another interesting point made by the report is the distinction made between President Abdullah Gül and the Erdoğan government, regarding political tensions including Gezi. Gül’s role was described as “conciliatory” and warning citizens against “polarization,” while the government was accused of “adopting an uncompromising stance during protests, including a polarizing tone towards citizens, civil society organizations and business.” 

The government was accused of not paying enough attention to political dialogue in other parts of the report. For example, the EU report says the government had not consulted with other parties prior to the 4th Judicial Reform Package, also claiming the package had brought “no progress” towards “increasing the quality of judiciary [practices]” in Turkey. Similarly, the condition of state expenditures and generally interior auditing mechanisms following the 2012 law on the Court of Accounts (Sayıştay) were also found inefficient.

The report is a call to Turkey from the EU. Despite the exhausting duration and nature of relations, neither Brussels nor Ankara want to sever relations completely. It is also true that the EU has not been fair to Turkey, as it was to adopt a number of eastern and southern European members, including the Greek Cyprus government in 2004. Still, the call of the report should be read correctly in Ankara; the expectations are still high in Brussels about further democratization in Turkey, and Gezi is not seen as an obstacle but an opportunity for European eyes to bridge the political cultures in between.