A time for encouragement

Let's not mince words: The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party government in Turkey is showing signs of uneasiness and weariness after the European Union summit of last Dec. 17. It's no coincidence that the chief negotiator hasn't been appointed yet. Both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul have been behaving as if Turkey isn't happy with the summit's outcome.

If I were in their place, I would have behaved differently. Turkey has every right to be happy: More than 40 years have gone by with Turkey getting very little in concrete terms on the way to full membership in the European Union. The December summit in Brussels changed this completely. Turkey was accepted as a candidate for accession negotiations which will start on Oct. 3 this year. The decision has opened up a whole new era for Turkey. At least that's my impression.

But I'm not a politician whereas Erdogan and Gul are. They both are politicians' politicians who live their lives according to political expediency. Political expediency, in this case, requires caution.

First of all, the process which started 40 years ago and ended on Dec. 17 was a political one; it needed all of Turkey's political might to be pooled to convince European leaders to lower their countries' fences so that Turkey could squeeze in. The AK Party government managed to do this successfully. Now it's time for another process, a process which requires a different approach to achieve its aims.

If politicians were totally satisfied with what they have achieved and with what they received from the Europeans after the summit, they might have shown more happiness and jubilation. As a man of strong emotions, Prime Minister Erdogan is not altogether happy about the way the EU does business with regards to Turkey.

The case in question is Cyprus. Thanks to the AK Party government, Turkey has changed its policy for Cyprus radically. The Annan plan, brokered by United Nation Secretary-General Kofi Annan and supported by all the relevant global powers, has not been implemented although Turkey and Turkish Cypriots gave it their full support. Last April's referendum was a turning point in Cyprus's history when the UN plan was accepted by Turkish Cypriots with an overwhelming majority whereas the Greek Cypriots rejected it.

In the 2002 Copenhagen summit, when Turkey received a conditional welcome by the EU, one of the conditions was Turkey's willingness to solve the Cyprus problem. Turkey, for its part, did more than expected but the other parties concerned, including the EU, did nothing. Politicians in Ankara, for obvious reasons, waited for at least a token of appreciation from Brussels but to no avail. Even the smallest political gesture towards the Turks on the island has been avoided while Greek Cypriots have been rewarded with full acceptance by the Europeans. Politicians in Ankara have taken note of this with trepidation.

More anxiety stems from internal politics.

The AK Party didn't start as a political movement in favor of the EU, far from it, but it found it beneficial politically to force the issue of Turkey's EU prospects eventually. One of the arguments which helped them acquire a more positive approach was that it would solve almost all problems related to basic human rights. The AK Party is a political movement whose grassroots supporters suffered greatly from Turkey's awful human rights record and it was easy for the AK Party to convince its voters of the necessity to implement changes. The AK Party leadership has done everything to accommodate the wishes of the more secular amongst Turkey's EU supporters and they themselves have been disappointed by the same secular elements due to their lack of reciprocal support for more conservative causes dear to the AK Party's grassroots.

There is one more thing which is annoying the government: television pundits, who have preached the necessity of Turkey's accession to the EU, changed their tune after it happened to the point that they say very clearly that there will be no real negotiations as such but only obedience to everything desired by Brussels. Brussels will demand, Ankara will yield and it will always be so: there will be very little room for maneuvering in the final act for derogations.

When I listen to these pundits, I feel uneasy myself when they state, in a very matter-of-fact manner, that political parties in every single European country lost elections after successfully achieving EU membership. Politicians, who live on their successes and are accustomed to reaping the subsequent benefits, now feel that this is a dangerous game. The more successful they are, the more likely it becomes that they will lose. The accession process, according to media pundits, is a deadly business for politicians.

How good would you feel if you put yourself in their place? I would feel bad, very bad indeed.

So, it's understandable for the government to take time for more soul-searching, to decide whether Europe is the direction for the country and good for its future. If my analysis of the government's lethargy, or languor, towards the EU doesn't sound promising, I cannot really do anything but suggest that the government needs all the encouragement it can get.

Those of you out there, are you ready to do this?

From 'The New Anatolian', March 8, 2005.


  • The proof in the pudding - March 1, 2005

  • Hail to the Columnist! - February 22, 2005

  • It is in our blood, we do not waver - February 15, 2005

  • Excuse my question - February 08, 2005

  • A friend in need - February 01, 2005

  • 8 Mart 2005

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