In Turkey, the EU strategy document on enlargement was received with disappointment primarily due to the rigid French position on Turkey since Sarkozy assumed power. Turkey’s discontent was a consequence of French politicking which resulted in EU reference to “negotiations” with Turkey rather than to Turkey’s full membership objective and accession negotiations process as was regularly done. Turkish reaction was reflected in an official statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in declarations by various civil society actors, among others, the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSİAD). Leaving aside the discontent, the content of the progress report on Turkey was perceived as balanced, one that praised Turkey in its overall assessment despite various criticisms with respect to the speed of reform and implementation processes. As such, the necessity to speed up the reform process is a widely recognised aspect of the Turkey-EU relations and Turkey’s accession process. In this respect, a number of issues were hotly debated in Turkey such as Article 301 of the Penal Code. Article 301 penalizes “insulting Turkishness, the Republic as well as the organs and institutions” and has repeatedly been used to prosecute non-violent opinions expressed by journalists, writers, publishers, academics and human rights activists.
The Irish ‘No’ for the Lisbon Treaty has not created a widespread debate across the Turkish government, opposition, political parties, civil society organisations, press/media and public opinion in light of the weight of the domestic political agenda of the country, which remains almost exclusively focused on the closure of the case against the governing AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – Justice and Development Party), and the “Ergenekon” investigation on plots to overthrow the current AKP government.
The major point within the limited discussions on the referendum results concerns an emphasis on the indifference of the Turkish public to the Irish ‘No’ vote, which is found to be puzzling by the media, as the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty at the EU level is to have clear repercussions for the EU accession process of Turkey. It is no surprise that the results of the referendum are discussed mainly in relation to EU enlargement and Turkish accession process, as the main axis of the debate on the EU in Turkey is shaped around the relations between the EU and Turkey, rather than the EU’s internal structure, institutions and dynamics.
As reported in the previous editions of EU-25/27 Watch on Turkey, developments in the EU receive political and public reactions and national media coverage only when they relate to the accession of Turkey to the EU. The issue of the future of the EU is no exception in this regard. Therefore the debate on EU’s future received public opinion’s attention to the extent that it, in the eyes of the public, was linked to Turkish membership. This means that matters such as those related to the timetable and the technical process for ratification of the Treaty were of no interest to Turks, as Turkey is not expected to ratify the Treaty. Such disinterest in the future of the EU is also aggravated by the fact that Turkish attitude towards the EU in general is growing increasingly sceptical in seeing Turkey in the EU.
Sait Akşit and Özgehan Şenyuva
In 2010, three major issues and events have occurred affecting the competition and position among the political parties. First, a human rights and minority rights reform initiative proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP) in summer 2009, which was initially called the “Kurdish initiative” and was later expanded to include various other aspects and thus came to be known as the “democratic initiative”; second, the constitutional package proposed by the AKP with an aim to expand democratisation efforts; and, third, the resignation of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi – CHP) leader Deniz Baykal in early May 2010 under very controversial conditions.
The Turkish political scene has been dominated by four major political parties since the 2002 general elections. There has been a very tense and sometimes confrontational competition between the governing AKP and the opposing CHP and Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi – MHP). Another party which is also represented in the parliament, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi – BDP, formerly known as the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP) is the other major actor in the Turkish political scene.
Although climate change does not hold an important place in the Turkish domestic debate, the environmentalist groups criticised the results of the Copenhagen meeting, which has been perceived as a disappointment regarding the EU’s efforts in environmental issues. It has been argued that the failure of the Copenhagen Accord is mainly due to the developed western countries’ aloof attitude towards climate change and the environmental problems that people are facing. It has been argued by civil society organisations and the environmentalist groups that the deadlock has been created because of big market economy countries, such as the USA, China and India, refusing to sign a binding agreement which may affect their economic growth and interests in a global crisis situation. Also, it has been debated that the developing countries’ requests regarding funding and technological assistance have not been welcomed by developed countries, including EU member states.
Turkey started its accession negotiations in 2005 and since then Turkey has been more interested in its accession process than the enlargement debate regarding other countries, i.e., Iceland and Croatia. It has been perceived that Turkey’s accession to the EU is not considered part of any previous enlargement rounds (i.e., 2004, 2007) or any future enlargements either. In this framework, Iceland’s membership to the EU was not widely discussed in Turkey. Iceland’s membership has been seen as a consequence of the economic crisis affecting the whole world and Europe as part of it. It has been argued that Iceland’s integration to the EU would have a minimum effect on the EU’s governance structures due to its small size. The main problems seen in the accession negotiations are related to agricultural and fisheries policies due to the common market and regulations on fishing, i.e., whales.
In Turkey, the Lisbon Treaty was regarded as a necessary step for an EU that is less introspective and more open to challenges which may arise from enlargement. It was argued that the treaty would bring the EU closer to a political unity, which would be in the interest of each and every candidate country, with the warning that Turkey now needs a full-fledged accession strategy, as the political identity of the Union is getting stronger.
AKP closure case, Russian-Georgian conflict, and proposal on “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform”
Center for European Studies / Middle East Technical University
Turkey’s political agenda in the second half 2008 was dominated by a combination of internal and external issues. The AKP closure case, Russian-Georgian conflict and the proposal on “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” were some of the topics that dominated the agenda together with other issues such as the US elections, global crisis, and the upcoming local elections.
The AKP closure case
The final decision by the constitutional court on the AKP closure case was given on 30 July 2008. The court ruled against closure but imposed financial penalties and announced that this was a serious warning to the AKP. Politicians from mainly the AKP stated that the decision was a landmark victory for democracy. The opposition, on the other hand, argued that this was actually identification of the fact that the AKP is a focal point of anti-secular activity but the court was not able to deal with the crisis. However, expectations that this may lead to a change in the political parties law and the election law did not materialise.
Center for European Studies / Middle East Technical University
The military conflict in Georgia (aka the 5-day war) has been debated largely in Turkey by civil society organisations, political parties and the media. After the outbreak of war in South Ossetia, the Turkish government pursued a very active foreign policy in the region. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the region, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, paid visits to the countries involved and the Foreign Ministry of Turkey revitalised the idea of the Caucasus stability pact under the name of “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” in order to secure stability by involving Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in the process.
Caucasus stability pact