Sunday

28th May 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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

Nato needs a European 2%

Europe needs to take care of its on security, but not on Trump's terms, with the 2 percent of GDP mantra flawed as a model.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Ukip's last electoral stand

Nigel Farage's anti-EU party is unlikely to win any seats at the 8 June elections. After the loss of his charismatic leadership, the party is just a rag-tag of third raters.

Respecting human rights is good business

Trade policy creates economic welfare, but it could also be an unmissable opportunity to protect the environment, human rights and ensure sustainable development across Europe and beyond.

Development serving the purpose of migration control

While the EU is sacrificing development aid to serve short-term migration interests, it is important to realise that enhanced border controls will not solve the root causes of forced migration and displacement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms