Reconcile with the EU, fight against TÜSİAD?

Reconcile with the EU, fight against TÜSİAD?

Relations between Turkey and the European Union are passing through an intense week, with many exchanges of high-level and important visits that started with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to Brussels last week. That could be described as an historic visit, as it was only Erdoğan’s third appearance in the heart of the EU since 2005, an indication of the Turkish prime minister’s distance from EU issues.

Then came French President François Hollande’s visit to Turkey, marking another historic moment as it comes 22 years after François Mitterand’s state visit. Meanwhile, President Abdullah Gül will hold talks with his Italian counterparts on bilateral issues as well as on the Turkish accession process, as Italy will resume the term presidency of the union in the second half of this year.

Most importantly, Erdoğan will travel to Germany next week to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel and her new coalition government. This set of visits and intense talks could have an outstanding effect on Turkey’s accession process, if we were convinced that the government was sincerely aiming at transforming the country into a universally accepted democratic country where the rule of law, transparency and accountability are the rule.

A responsible leader of a country does not label all of his opponents “traitors” when they criticize the ruling power. Erdoğan and his aides tried to portray half of this nation as either terrorists or members of illegal organizations during last summer’s Gezi Park demonstrations and now they are labeling the same half of the country as traitors. This is no doubt a perfect indication of authoritarian inclinations.

As he has done throughout his 11 years in power, he once again targeted the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) - the country’s leading business organization - and accused its head, Muharrem Yılmaz, of treachery. Erdoğan and his aides should be aware that attacking business organizations, the national and international media, civil society organizations, and reconciling with the EU, are not complimentary moves.

The EU is well aware of the Erdoğan government’s efforts to cover up the corruption and graft operation through undemocratic moves, massive purges, interventions in the judiciary, and even subordinating key judicial bodies to the executive.

His close men perhaps believe that the best defense is good offense and advise Erdoğan to continue to fight on all fronts. Against his opponents’ strategy of focusing on corruption and graft claims, the prime minister is attacking his adversaries with very nationalistic rhetoric of treachery, treason, etc., in a bid to divert attention from corruption and his corrupt ministers.

The prime minister is preparing a massive election campaign to start mid-February, with plans to go to nearly two-thirds of Turkey’s 81 provinces to tell his truth of the Dec. 17 process. He knows perfectly well that his future political career will likely be shaped on the night of March 30.