06 May 2007

1667) Turkey's Political Conflicts And The Eu’s Involvement-2007

 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians  Site © pix Everyone who is even a little bit interested in Turkish politics would today see what kind of a critical phase the country is going through. The declaration of the military on last friday that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in the debate about Turkey’s next president and is also the absolute defender of secularism and they will display their attitudes and actions very clearly, when necessary , the current deadlock in presidental elections, thousands of people who demonstrate against Abdullah Gül’s possible presidency and consequently “headscarf in Çankaya” and the old debate about the dangers for Turkish secular regime show once again the common fear of many Turkish people that they would have to make a choice between their democracy and republican principles.

In this debate, those are of significant amount who are secular and also against another military intervention. For this group, it is unimaginable to think of another coup d’etat in Turkey of 2007 who is on her way to the EU.
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Many European leaders seem to agree with this view. While Olli Rehn, the expansion affairs commissioner for the EU, stated “This is a clear test case whether the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularization and democratic values”, Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, made a similar point and stressed “I am very concerned about the recent public statement by the Turkish military. This statement looks like a deliberate attempt by the armed forces to influence the election of a new President in Turkey. They should stay in their barracks and keep out of politics. The Turkish people have achieved great progress in respect for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law since Turkey’s accession to the Council of Europe in 1949. These achievements should not be put at risk”[1].

It is a plausible argument that the military should not determine the politics in a country that is on her way to the EU, still, one should first analyse Turkey’s way to the EU and more importantly, what has changed on this road.

The only certain fact on Turkey’s road is that the road has been “long and torturous”[2]. It has witnessed disappointments and disagreements for both parties. One of the criticisms that Turkey has always had to face is the highly accentuated role of the military in Turkish politics. Military involvement was a major part of the evolution of the new Turkish Republic in the 1920s. However, the persistence of the military’s role can directly be linked to the two challenges to Turkey’s democratisation process. These are Political Islam and Kurdish nationalism[3].

These two conflicts in Turkish society have evolved in new directions during the Europeanisation process of the last couple of years. It is of great importance to assess these new directions. The positive effects of Europeanisation on Turkey’s democratisation are undeniable. Today it is widely accepted by the majority of Turkish society that democracy is a means and also a goal in itself that helps to resolve conflicts within a society, which is proven by the two demonstrations on 14th and 29th April in Ankara and Istanbul.

On the other hand, it is questionable why almost 50 years of European Union policies to improve democratisation and prosperity in Turkey did not lead to the desired outcomes; in marked contrast, for example, to the rapid evolution of Spain, Portugal or Greece. Similar developments can also be observed in the news member states in Eastern Europe and in even Southeastern Europe within the European Neighbourhood Policy. Is this because of these two longstanding prpblematic issues of Turkish democracy or of the ineffectiveness of the European Union policies? Or because of both of these aspects?

Another certain fact is that the Europeanisation process in Turkey has been a critical issue. In December 2004, the decision to start accession talks was taken and amid high hope they were initiated in October 2005. However, criticism from Europe towards the role of the military in Turkish politics continued, and additionally in 2004, the terrorist organisation PKK declared the end of the ceasefire dating from 1999. In the last two years, the conflict has become more appearent and stronger.This is important to see that the Turkish Europeanisation process was not very effective in the resolution of the “Kurdish question” and that the EU was not very influential in contributing to the resolution of the conflict.

The effectiveness of the EU policies is once again questionable if one takes the current developments in Turkey and the reencarnation of the old debate about “Democracy vs. Republic” into account. It is not deniable that political Islam in Turkey have both advocated and benefited from the rapprochement with the EU.

Today’s political literature and even daily discussions about Turkey’s EU accession involve Turkey’s possible contribution to the EU in order for it to become a global player. Thus, it is important to ask, how this global player, who should play an active role in conflict management, chooses its instruments, how effective these are in general, and in particular with regard to the conflicts in Turkey.

In the past accession processes to Southern and Eastern Europe, the EU has usually had the role of a democracy and stability anchor by means of its conditionality policies.

On the other hand, Turkey’s current picture and the existing conundrum in spite of the EU’s involvement are challenging the EU’s credibility as a stability anchor and conflict manager. Moreover, the supporters for Turkey’s accession to the EU are decreasing not only in Europe but also in Turkey herself[4]. It is also a known fact, that many Turks accuse the EU for worsening the Kurdish conflict and the transformation of political Islam in Turkey into “muslim democracy” and for the “risks the secular regime is now facing”.

Turkey’s accession process seems to witness more difficulties over time. How the EU’s status as the most important democracy anchor for Turkey should continue regardless of the increasingly prevailing skepticism on both sides of the fence; i.e. that Turkey may never be a member of the EU cannot be foreseen.

However, it is important to ask here if an open-ended process could not lead to a worsening of the existing conflicts in Turkey. This naturally requires the assessment of the effectiveness of the EU as a democracy anchor. It should be asked in which direction the EU’s policies towards the problematic issues of Turkish democracy influenced the conflicts. This, in turn, would result in important evidence to judge the EU’s present capacity of managing and resolving conflicts as a global actor.

Irem Güney
05 May 2007

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[1] www.coe.int

[2] Casanova (2006) , The Long, Difficult, and Tortuous Journey of Turkey into Europe and the Dilemmas of European Civilization, Constellations 13:2

[3] Somer(2006), Sustainable Democratization and the Roles of the US and the EU:Political Islam and Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey, Turkish Policy Quarterly 5:3

[4] Surveys on Political Trends in Turkey: Pew(2006), Muslims in Europe ,Pew Global Attitudes Project, Washington DC http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=254

SONAR(2006), Siyasal Egilimler Arastirmasi, Istanbul; http://www.sonararastirma.com/pdf/eylul_2006.pdf

Copyright © 2005 Journal of Turkish Weekly


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