A sense of rejuvenation in Turkey-Europe ties

A sense of rejuvenation in Turkey-Europe ties

There are evident signs that ties between Turkey and Europe are improving. Of course, this is expected to benefit our democracy. 

Just as Europe is Turkey’s biggest foreign market and its biggest source for foreign capital, the existence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is also valuable in terms of Turkey’s democracy, state of rights and freedoms.

Tough times 

Turkey and Europe have not been on the best terms for the past four or five years. With both sides having a populist voice, their relations have been poisoned. Especially after the constitutional referendum of April 2017, the worst words were uttered.

A week after the referendum, on April 24, the European Union (EU) made the decision to “monitor” the country again. That would mean that the level of ties between the two powers would go back to what it was before 2004—the normalization period. However, it was clear that populism did not help either of the sides.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on May 26 said “what took place during the referendum [season] should be left behind” and tensions began to lower after that. On Jan. 20, the EU’s Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri spoke with the press and said the EU had “made some serious mistakes” in its moves with Turkey.

On Feb. 7, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik announced that a new regulation draft telling the seven problems between Turkey and the EU was presented to Brussels. This was a very important step on the subjects of visa and immigration, and also on rights and freedoms.

Preparing for the summit 

Finally, the EU announced on March 15 it had begun to transfer the first part of the “second 3 billion euros” it had promised for the migration deal.

This shows the report presented by Çelik on the seven subjects has had some positive implications. It also hints that the visa requirement for the EU will be removed. Surely, the negotiations will continue, however the authorities in Turkey from this point on need to be careful in terms of providing rights and freedoms to its peoples.

As Die Welt has reported, it is possible to expect more releases of journalists from prisons.

All these stand as preparations to the official visit President Erdoğan will make to Varna for an EU summit on March 26. They also imply that the summit might bring about more positive results.

Surely, Turkey will demand full EU membership and not settle for a “strategic partnership model” with the EU in Varna. Yet, what matters in the short run is that Turkey is back on track with its “EU process” so that it can meet the long-term goal of full membership.

The importance of the judiciary 

The claim that the EU is making Turkey wait at its doorsteps is a biased claim and is therefore illusionary, too. It is enough to take a look at the Erdoğan administration’s programs to understand what the 2001-2011 term has brought to Turkey and what Turkey has gained from this process with the EU.

Does the word “judiciary” make a difference regarding relations with Russia? The term is of utmost importance regarding relations with the EU.

European Council Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland sharply criticized how the local courts did not obey the Constitutional Court. He made a very important warning: If the Constitutional Court does not provide a platform to protect rights, the ECHR might be an alternative. This would mean a loss of prestige for the Constitutional Court and destabilization of the economy.

Jagland met with Zühtü Arslan, the head of the Constitutional Court, on Jan. 15. According to the report published on the court’s official website, Zühtü “thanked” Jagland once again for standing by Turkey during the deadly coup attempt of July 15, 2016. He also said Turkey would overcome the problems it is facing during these extraordinary times “through the use of the judiciary.”

Yes, these struggles will not be overcome with heavier authority, but with checks and balances, independence of the judiciary and the application of ECHR standards for the citizens of Turkey in terms of rights and freedoms.

The EU process is of utmost importance in this regard.