Turkey’s anti-terror bill sends the wrong message for the economy and diplomacy

Turkey’s anti-terror bill sends the wrong message for the economy and diplomacy

It has been a month since the June 24 elections and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has almost established the most essential parts of his new administration, although more needs to be done in the coming period.

Erdoğan announced his vice president and 16 ministers on July 9 and issued a number of presidential decrees to build his administration, including nine agencies and four offices, a process that is being accompanied with a major change in the state’s key bureaucracy.

The last two weeks have shown economy will be the key priority of Erdoğan’s government under the control of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak who has been appointed as the Treasury and Finance Minister.

Albayrak has already proven to be a very active minister who is promising to put things back on track in regards to macroeconomic balances with the participation of all relevant stakeholders. He, at the same time, has been conveying strong messages to ease the concerns of international economic circles and financial institutions over the independence of the Central Bank.

The second priority of Erdoğan’s government is security. That is why a 29-article legislation that grants excessive powers to governors and other state bodies has been rushed to parliament immediately after the termination of emergency rule. In his address to parliament on July 24, Erdoğan made it clear he would not give an ear to criticisms voiced by other countries and opposition parties.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) describe this law as the graver version of the state of emergency, which violates the Turkish constitution. Opposition spokespeople underlined many articles of this law were in contradiction with universal rights and fundamental freedoms while the government argues that this legal move is no different from measures taken by France in late 2017 after the removal of a two-year long state of emergency.

The third priority is about foreign policy. Ties with the Netherlands and Germany as well as Austria are seemingly improving in bilateral terms as a result of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s efforts. In a meeting with some journalists on July 23, Çavuşoğlu expressed Turkey’s intention to develop better ties with all countries, particularly in the European continent, hinting new trilateral and four-way mechanisms with prominent partners, including France and Germany.

Çavuşoğlu underlined Turkey’s readiness to reconcile with the European Union as well as the fact that Turkey does not have the luxury to turn its back on the world’s wealthiest international organization. Upgrading the Customs Union and introducing a visa waiver for the Turkish nationals could be areas on which Turkey and the EU can develop their cooperation, according to the minister.

However, these three priorities contradict one another because of the probable negative impact of the anti-terror law on achieving economic and diplomatic targets. There are serious concerns that this new law will institutionalize emergency rule for another three years at the expense of further deteriorating the state of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

This situation is obviously not ideal for attracting foreign investment, which looks for stability, predictability, and a well-functioning rule of law. It also conveys the message that Turkey is still far from the normalization process.

As for foreign policy, this law will definitely put another hurdle before any attempt to engage with the European Union, if, of course, the government has such an objective. Plus, it will also further complicate Turkey’s demands for upgrading the Customs Union and visa exemption for Turkish nationals.

It is symbolically important that the first legislative activity of the Turkish Parliament under the new presidential system is the one that de facto extends the state of emergency for another three years. Clearly, this bill does not send the right message to the outer world about the government’s future policies.

Serkan Demirtaş, Turkish economy, Turkish Foreign Ministry,