CHP to EU: Put pressure on AKP but don’t suspend talks

CHP to EU: Put pressure on AKP but don’t suspend talks

When former EU minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış initiated last fall to organize a trip to Brussels for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he was aiming at taking the advantage of positive developments between Ankara and Brussels after a negotiation chapter was opened after three years and the two signed the historic visa liberalization deal.

That would also mark a new era between Turkey and the EU after relations were seriously hit due to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful activists throughout the Gezi Park events of last summer. In short, Erdoğan’s visit that comes nearly after years break, would help the government to break growing perceptions that it’s distancing from EU and Copenhagen criteria.

But these were all before Dec. 17, 2013, when Turkey and all of its state officials and political parties have been shaken because of the eruption of a massive corruption and graft operation engulfing Erdoğan and his cabinet members. The Dec. 17 earthquake and its aftershocks also serious effected Turkey’s relations with the EU, something Erdoğan will surely observe first-hand.

At the outset, Brussels and EU officials were carefully watching the developments and they were expressing their concerns about what’s going on in a candidate country. But a month after Dec. 17, we observe a more firm and outspoken Brussels slamming the Turkish government’s undemocratic acts for covering up the corruption probe at the expense of risking accession talks.

EU officials agree on the fact that the removal of hundreds of police officers and prosecutors in order to impede the corruption probe is unacceptable in the frame of transparency and accountability. Efforts to change regulations on the procedures of law enforcement and the structure of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) have regarded clear attempts to breach the principle of the separation of powers and of rule of law, both vital criteria for the continuation of accession negotiations.

The government initiative to re-shape the HSYK only three years after it has been approved thanks to technical assistance from the Venice Commission and political support from the EU had a deeper effect on these European bodies. More and more members of the European Parliament and other officials are voicing an intention to suspend the already slowed down accession negotiations. It’s sad to see these sort of hazy ideas are floating around again. That’s why the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s letter to President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy is very important and timely:

“As we are grappling with the challenges to our democracy and the rule of law at home, it is important the EU reaffirms clearly and unequivocally its commitment to Turkey’s accession under the agreed terms of conditionality. A contrary course of action by the EU and any EU message in the opposite direction would only strengthen the hands of those who would wish to steer Turkey away from its Euro-Atlantic moorings.”

Kılıçdaroğlu underlines the need for the EU to continue expressing its concerns with the state of affairs and in calling for the respect of freedoms of expression, press, assembly and communication and that Erdoğan’s visit to Brussels on Jan. 21 would be a timely opportunity for this to happen.

As a matter of fact, senior EU officials are making preparations for the best expression of these concerns as EU’s commissioner Stefan Füle requested the new EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to convey EU’s messages to Ankara in their last encounter in Brussels on Dec. 14.

We don’t know whether the government received messages from Brussels in the right way, but it’s sure that we’ll have a better view on the fate of the Turkish accession process after Erdoğan’s visit to EU’s capital.