AB Türkiye müzakere süreci…Yenilenen süspansiyon mekanizması (english)
EU-Turkey Accession Negotiations – Renewed Case For Suspension
In Social Europe on 12 December 2016, I argued that EU-Turkey accession negotiations should be suspended until the Turkish government: (a) agrees to a new set of reforms that would reverse the extensive damage done to democracy and rule of law; and (b) delivers reforms in accordance with agreed milestones.
Some critics rushed to reiterate the case for appeasement and explained why suspension would not work. Their narrative turned a blind eye to the gradual establishment of dictatorship in Turkey and called for saving EU-Turkey relations and the EU itself through heightened cooperation with Turkey even as the AKP regime was running a one-sided referendum campaign designed to codify the dictatorial regime. On the other side of the argument, some claim that terminating the EU-Turkey accession is the only correct way forward. The latter view resonates with proliferating voices on the European right, which had been against Turkey’s EU membership even when the AKP government was forced to accept the Copenhagen criteria in the face of strong domestic support (over 70%) for membership.
The EU should swiftly decide in favour of suspending the EU-Turkey accession negotiations. The issue must be discussed in the informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Malta on 28 April; and a decision should be made no later than the June summit at the end of the Maltese Presidency.
Suspension is necessary because the marginally (and very likely fraudulently) approved constitutional amendments establish a regime that perpetuates the practice of state crimes that the Turkish state has excelled in. It also protects the chief orchestrator of such crimes (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) against both legal and parliamentary scrutiny. To add salt to injury, the ‘chief’ (as he is referred to by his supporters) vowed to re-introduce the death penalty. This naked ambition for dictatorship should be considered in the light of the OSCE report that the referendum process was un-free and unfair and voting on the day was marred by a multitude of irregularities.
It should also be noted that the referendum took place while the co-chairs and 11 lawmakers of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – the third largest party in parliament – were held in Turkish prions. The party had to run the referendum campaign also without more than 2,000 imprisoned activists. The same treatment was accorded to the Democratic Regions’ Party (DBP), whose co-chairs were detained, and all 82 of the Kurdish municipalities it controls have been put under central government trustees even though the government’s own inquiries could not establish any irregularities in the running of the municipalities and the DBP had won the local elections with majorities ranging from 65% to 85%.
The evidence so far points to the incompatibility of the Turkish regime with the values and norms that the European people and institutions subscribe to. There is also evidence about a range of international and European steps leaving no room for appeasement or prevarication. A UN Report published in February 2017 documented a wide range of state crimes against Kurdish people in Turkey, including destruction of cities and towns, deaths of more than 1000 civilians and displacement of over 350,000 Kurds. The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on 8 March 2017 for Turkey to be put under monitoring – a status reserved for members breaching democratic norms such as Russia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.
In its 110th plenary on 10 March 2017, the Venice Commission has indicated that the proposed constitutional amendments “would not bring a democratic presidential system based on the separation of powers.” Instead, “it would risk degeneration into an authoritarian presidential system.” On 14 March 2017 the EU commission announced the suspension of EU funds earmarked for convergence reforms in Turkey because the AKP regime has failed to deliver the goods.
Against this background, several EU countries have banned AKP officials from campaigning for the yes camp in the referendum. I welcome these bans because the campaigning of Turkish officials in European countries contravenes Turkish law (Article 94/A of the Electoral Procedures Law, as amended in 2008 by the AKP regime itself). In addition, the AKP regime has engaged in espionage activities that polarize community relations within the Turkish and Kurdish diaspora in Europe. Therefore, both the EU Commission and EU Council have done the right thing by siding with the German and Dutch governments against the ‘Nazi’ slurs by Erdogan and his henchmen.
The case for suspending the EU-Turkey accession partnership was evident in December 2016, when EU leaders decided to ignore the European Parliament’s call (and the call of concerned people) to that effect. The decision has had the catastrophic effect of letting the AKP regime off the hook and emboldening it to suppress the no camp in the run-up to the referendum.
This state of affairs leaves the EU no option but to rectify its mistake: the accession process must be suspended until the AKP government (or a replacement thereof) comes up with a credible plan for undoing the dictatorial regime. The accession process can and should be revived gradually and on the basis of reform evidence tied to specific milestones. The current AKP establishment is not likely to buy into this conditionality because of its complicity in the wide range of human rights violations and corruption so far.
Yet a political re-alignment in Turkey is inevitable. The referendum process revealed that Erdogan’s push for full-scale dictatorship is not supported by about 10% of AKP supporters and some ex-AKP leaders waiting in the wings. Also, the AKP’s claim about delivering economic growth and welfare is becoming increasingly non-credible in the face of double-digit unemployment rates, rising inflation, high and persistent current account deficits (at 5%-6% of GDP), increased burden of external debt servicing, and falling growth rates. The main opposition party (the Republican People’s Party) is under pressure to distance itself from the security-based approach to the Kurdish issue and play a more active role in the defence of democracy and EU membership. Finally, the Kurds and their political leaders have proved that they are a significant force that no Turkish party or government can ignore. These factors indicate that dictatorship in Turkey is an unsustainable project – and suspending the accession process will only accelerate its demise by encouraging a pro-democracy and pro-EU political re-alignment there.
Termination is an unimaginative policy recommendation because it absolves EU decision-makers of responsibility for their mistakes that date back to the adoption of the open-ended membership scheme which signalled a lack of will to anchor democratic reforms in candidate countries. It is easy but opportunistic to cut loose partners that backslide on reform without owning up to the EU’s own mistakes. It is also a surrender in the sense that it signals that the EU is withdrawing from the fight for democracy when its conditionality is essential for the struggle of the pro-democracy forces against authoritarian regimes at its gates (and indeed within itself).
Suspension serves notice on and indicts the AKP’s dictatorial regime. As such, it lends support to the pro-democracy forces in Turkey. With its preference for a special partnership based on the customs union, the termination argument is just a new type of appeasement: it signals to the AKP regime and its successors that they can do what they like domestically, but the EU would still value doing business with them as ‘special partners’.