Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Opinion

Ankara turmoil shows need for new EU initiative

  • 'The corruption scandal is undermining confidence in Turkish democracy at home and abroad' (Photo: EUobserver)

With Greece holding the EU Presidency for the next six months, the prospects for EU Turkey relations look poor.

Speaking of EU enlargement as he introduced his Presidency's programme to MEPs, Greece's PM Antonis Samaras did not even mention this applicant. Yet it is precisely because of the turmoil in Ankara that a new EU initiative is needed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The corruption scandal that is fast becoming a political crisis is undermining confidence in Turkish democracy at home and abroad. Committed to the political criteria of EU accession, which include the rule of law, Turkey faces harsh criticism for its handling of the investigation into corruption involving senior officials.

A government which has achieved extraordinary reform, overseen huge social progress and developed an impressive international presence is now on the ropes.

A referendum in 2010 showed 58 per cent of Turkish voters in favour of a new civilian constitution: it has not yet been drafted.

The impressive, almost manic, energy behind a ten year reform process has evaporated. Some detect patterns of authoritarianism in the government's relations with the business community and the media, and - during the Gezi Park protests - towards people protesting.

The anti-corruption investigation opened on 17 December brought the resignation within days of four government ministers. Its fallout is still highly toxic. Graft charges brought by State prosecutors against figures close to Prime Minister Erdogan are dismissed by him as an attempted coup d'etat.

The charges against the Prime Minister's son cast a shadow over his prospects of continuing in office. Clear disrespect for the separation of powers in his handling of the crisis has put appalling pressure on prosecutors leading the case and led to the firing, reassigning, harrassing and threatening of scores of high-ranking police officers.

Allegations of a “foreign plot” allow the prime minister to paint himself victim of an international operation blamed on his former reformist allies in the Gülen movement.

Transparency and accountability

Erdogan and his team should know that the only legitimate way to expose conspiracies is to carry governance onto liberal ground and highlight transparency and accountability.

The path he is treading merely reinforces the impression of high corruption and the subordination of the judiciary to the executive.

The government’s proposal to restructure the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the body responsible for judicial appointments, as a response to the ongoing investigation sparks concerns that the executive branch seeks a tighter grip on the judiciary, a clear infringement of the separation of powers which underpins modern western democracies.

Erdogan's instruction to the country's diplomats to tell the world that Turkey and its national interests are the target of the corruption allegations and to accuse his detractors of 'treachery' is unlikely to allay concerns abroad.

Neither Turkey nor her western allies would benefit from such a concentration of power. Indeed, it would doubtless lead to an early split in the ruling AK (Truth and Justice) Party between the liberals reformers who sense a danger to liberal democracy and the more religiously inspired forces who continue to back Erdogan.

Turkey needs to adhere to the rule of law and ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference, as EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle stressed to MEPs. In the end, the courts rather than voters must determine the outcome of the crisis.

But the EU can help in this. By insisting during Erdogan's visit to Brussels this week on due process: by keeping open the negotiations on Turkey's EU accession but stressing - before opening further talks - the need for implementation of reforms already approved in the Grand National Assembly; and by making a move to speed up normalisation of relations with Northern Cyprus. Together, these would help Turkey through this difficult stage of its development.

Might the leadership which has steered Greece so boldly through its domestic reform travails have the breadth of vision to recognise and seize this opportunity with Ankara? It would be the best payback possible for the solidarity which EU partners have extended to Athens.

The writer is President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party

Trump's wall vs Europe's sea

Though we would never admit it, the only difference between Trump and the EU is we don't need a wall - because we're 'fortunate' enough to have the Mediterranean.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

2019: Need for EU action

The EU needs to get its act together as US leader Donald Trump continues to wreck the global order.

News in Brief

  1. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  2. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  3. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'
  4. MEPs back spending €6bn on fusion energy research
  5. MEPs call for 'awareness campaign' on autonomous car benefits
  6. German glyphosate report 'copy-pasted' from industry
  7. Commission set to reveal controversial common tax plan
  8. Merkel plans major EU-China summit for 2020

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  2. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  3. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment
  4. Trump's wall vs Europe's sea
  5. Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret
  6. Germany scorns 'unusual' US threat on Russia pipeline
  7. UK parliament vote expected to prompt Brexit delay
  8. Pro-EU MEPs still see room for stopping Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us