Restrained reaction to EU progress report

Restrained reaction to EU progress report

There is a significant difference between official reactions from Ankara to this year's European Union Progress Report on Turkey and the report it issued last year.

You may remember, the negative reactions to last year’s report reached their peak when Professor Burhan Kuzu threw the report on the floor during the filming of a live TV show.

This year, even though there are many positive aspects to the report, a portion of the criticisms directed to the government must have been hard to swallow. For example, there are quite severe assessments in the EU report on sections of the Gezi Park resistance, freedom of expression and governance. Despite this, it is noteworthy that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has displayed a much more balanced and controlled reaction compared to last year.

No doubt the report’s content offers an array of features that the government can view positively. In this regard, three important emphases affect the general tone of this year’s report. Firstly, the third and fourth judicial reform packages that the government issued last year and last April respectively certainly strengthened the “pro” column of the report.

Secondly, it has to be said that the peace process that the government has initiated with Abdullah Öcalan to resolve the Kurdish issue has generated vast credit in the assets section of the balance sheet.

Finally, it could be said that the democratization package that the government announced at the last minute, just as the report was about to be finalized, also added a positive breeze to the text. 

However, despite all these positive reviews of the report, the “negatives” column of the balance sheet is no less crowded than last year’s. It is possible to say that the government’s use of excessive force to repress the Taksim Gezi Park resistance and the tear gas issue had an especially strong presence in the report.

Nevertheless, the government, while assessing the report, has displayed a tendency to see the full side of the glass from its own point of view. Well, what lies behind this change of attitude? 

We can assume that the attempt to restore the negative image that developed in the views of the Western world concerning the AK Party government, with the Gezi Park resistance, played an important role in curbing the official reaction. The government, aware of the erosion it has undergone and in an attempt to change this perception, is trying to prevent further damage in its relations with the EU - opting for the strategy of rewarming these relations instead.

However, there are probably also other factors. The AK Party government, which has become at odds with or an enemy to almost everyone in its geographical vicinity, is feeling the intense repercussions of the Syrian civil war. It prefers to steer clear of fighting on every front in search of “narrowing the range,” so to speak. The stance adopted can be seen, within the scope of this strategy, as a reflection of the attempt to have the relations sail on the European front at least, in relatively calm waters.

In return, even though the European Union lacks a domestic consensus in where to take the negotiation process, it does not want to risk a breakaway with Turkey either. At the end of the day, the announcement made Tuesday by the EU front that, after a three-year break, a new chapter will be opened for negotiations for the first time demonstrates the emergence of a new momentum in the relations.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this abridged article was published on Oct. 23. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.