Turkey's ruling AKP simply replaced Kemalism with Islamism, EP member says

Turkey's ruling AKP simply replaced Kemalism with Islamism, EP member says

BRUSSELS – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkeys ruling AKP simply replaced Kemalism with Islamism, EP member says

‘My disappointment about the AKP officials is now greater because of the positive signals that they had sent out in the early years,’ says Andrew Duff, talking to the Daily News in his office in Brussels.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) was initially rewarded by the European Union for changing Turkey's Kemalist state ideology, but Kemalism has simply been replaced by Islamism, according to a British member of the European Parliament. Progress on Turkey’s accession is now no longer possible under the AKP, with Turkey and the core of the EU diverging rather than converging, according to MEP Andrew Duff, who is also a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and who has been closely watching Turkey for years.

Turkey and the EU are again facing a new crisis, with the possibility of the 27-nation EU bloc refusing to open talks on one of the accession chapters as a response to Gezi events. What’s your take of the current situation?

The prospects for making any further substantive progress under the AKP government have ended. I have, like many in Turkey and here, put great confidence in the AKP to break the old regime and at first they did that. They were very pragmatic but they were also concerned to reduce the grip that the ultra Kemalists really had on Turkey and to make quite clear that the army stayed in their barracks.

We have rewarded them for that, and for the economic success.We rewarded the AKP by opening accession negotiations but it was clear that for the process to continue Turkey had to do a number of important things, principally to reconcile Turkey with the republic of Cyprus and they could have done that but they have not.

It appears now that chief negotiator Mr. Bağış, who has always been a volatile character and has failed to convince us in the EU that he was genuinely committed to the completion of the accession process, it is clear now that our suspicions were appropriate: he is more concerned to play the AKP line to replace Kemalism as a state ideology with something we can describe as Islamism.

By that I mean religiosity and an excessive tendency to raise the importance of religion in politics and in law. As a liberal I object to that wherever I find that; in Christianity as well.

Increasingly frequently we have statements from ministers like [Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu, who is clearly not prepared to contemplate the pooling of a Turkish national sovereignty to the extent that is required to join the EU. The present EU is on the brink of great change; of a deepening of integration. The present Union is not the thing that Turkey is applying to join. It will emerge from the crisis as a distinctly more federal creature than it is at the moment, with a federal government of a fiscal union. I don’t think that it is fair to go on pretending that Turkey is prepared to join such a federal union. For the next five to ten years it is clear that Turkey and the core of the EU, excluding the UK, are diverging rather than converging; so we have to manage that.

You say progress with the AKP is not possible and that Turkey and the EU will be diverging in coming years; does that mean that you equate Turkey with the AKP and assume the AKP will stay in power for a long time?

No, but one has to look to opinion polls and the weakness of opposition parties, which is chronic. If a good pro-European liberal opposition were to emerge then that would be very different and perhaps the protesters in Gezi Park are the start of something very big.

Do you believe it is the right step to delay opening talks on chapter 22 as a response to the Gezi events.

I actually do; if we were to open chapter 22 it would indicate to Mr. Erdoğan that we did not mind a lot about what has been going on or what he and Bağış have been saying.

What kind of a message would this decision send to those who want to see Turkey in the EU for better democratic standards?

I fully appreciate how, if we were to open these chapters, what a positive signal that would be but I would not want to fool people into thinking that opening chapters was sufficient in itself. What we need for Turkey is to seriously reform its own Constitution. But the current process is not working and it was never going to work.

You have to completely transform the idea that police and the army are there to protect the state from its people – that’s the Kemalist idea – you have to change that to the belief that the state is there to serve its people. What Taksim has been saying is a perfect illustration of how the police believe they were protecting the state from its people

So there is a long way to travel on the reform process in turkey and an awful lot more than the optimists believe.

We need to see from Erdoğan an apology for what has happened, the arrest and trial of the security forces who abused the powers and a settlement [to the issues] of urban planning. And that’s not asking much; all that is being asked is for modern standards of public consultations to be applied with respect to urban planning issues.

You said the EU had initially rewarded the AKP. Do you feel you were fooled or exploited by the AKP?

No. I think that EU has itself made many mistakes. I don’t think that the decision on accession negotiations was not sincere and it certainly did not unite the council where Germany, France, Greece, Cyprus Austrians, Slovaks were opposed and are opposed to Turkish membership.

Are you saying that accession negotiations should not have started from the beginning?

No, I am not saying that; I am saying that it was a risk but it has not worked, I had hoped that the opening of accession talks would get everyone around to agree with one another; that the experience of discussing the “acquis communautaires” and trying to apply it in Turkey would induce a modern European consensus both in Turkey about the EU and in the EU about Turkey. But that has not happened.

But don’t you think the EU had made many mistakes? It did not keep its promises toward Turkish Cypriots and chapters were blocked for issues that depended on Turkey.

All of this is true. I have always made it clear that the council is failing to respect commitments but also failing to act in a truly European spirit and actually acting out of prejudice to Islam, to the foreigner.

And you are not saying that the AKP had done nothing as far as reforms are concerned?

I am not saying that, actually my disappointment is now greater because of the positive signals that they had sent out in the early years.

Do you think that they had a secret agenda?

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I think that they have changed and power does that to people. It would be a surprise in a sense if it did not as an old party in government.

Is it not important for Turkey to remain anchored to the EU?

I don’t think Mr. Erdoğan has the slightest intention of being engaged with the EU in that sense I don’t think he really understands what the EU is. He sees it as a club that he would quite like to be a member off. But he does not understand it is in fact a system of government that is federal, pluralistic, secular, and far reaching. It is about lowering barriers between Turkey and everyone else, it is about the integration of Turkish people with Europeans who have a variety of traditions, dispositions, sentiments and aspirations that Mr. Erdoğan as a conservative Turk does not like and he is not the only man.

What are you views on Mr. Bağış?

I always wondered why he was the minister in charge of negotiations. I don’t think he has taken to that job very well. Perhaps he has got something else in mind like becoming mayor of Istanbul. I think he has been using his ministerial position perhaps to progress his career in some other field.

Who is Andrew Duff ?

Andrew Duff has been the spokesman on constitutional affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE) in the European Parliament since 1999. He also sits in the Foreign Affairs Committee. Duff is a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and frequently participates in conferences on EU-Turkey relations in Brussels and in Turkey.

Duff has been President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) since 2008. He co-chairs the Spinelli Intergroup of federalist MEPs. He is a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Duff was a member of the Convention on the Charter of Fundamental Rights (1999-2000) and of the constitutional Convention on the Future of Europe (2002-03). He represented the European Parliament in the intergovernmental conference which concluded the Treaty of Lisbon. Prior to his election as Member of the European Parliament for the East of England in 1999, Duff was director of the Federal Trust for Education and Research in London.