New clashes likely be­tween Turkey, Europe

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL - By Cen­giz Çan­dar

Once again, Turkey and the Euro­pean Union ap­pear des­tined for a head-on col­li­sion in their re­la­tions, one that looks very dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to avert.

The For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on June 20 adopted a re­vised, strongly worded draft of its An­nual Turkey Re­port 2016, which an­gered the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. The com­mit­tee showed for­mi­da­ble sup­port for the re­port: Only three mem­bers voted against it, while 51 voted in fa­vor and 14 ab­stained.

The com­mit­tee em­pha­sized that Turkey’s pend­ing con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments grant­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers to the pres­i­dency aren’t in line with the Copenhagen cri­te­ria — which are used to de­ter­mine a coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity to join the EU — and called on mem­ber states to for­mally sus­pend ac­ces­sion talks with Turkey if the changes are im­ple­mented in their cur­rent form. The amend­ments aren’t sched­uled to take full ef­fect un­til after the pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Novem­ber 2019.

In a way, the com­mit­tee is ask­ing Turk­ish President Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to de­clare the April 16 ref­er­en­dum re­sults null and void. This is, nat­u­rally, un­ac­cept­able for Er­do­gan. Even though the va­lid­ity of the elec­tion and the nar­row mar­gin of vic­tory have been widely chal­lenged, there isn’t the slight­est pos­si­bil­ity that Turkey will re­frain from im­ple­ment­ing the ref­er­en­dum re­sults or make changes.

After the com­mit­tee ac­cepted the re­port, Kati Piri, a Dutch So­cial Democrat and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment rap­por­teur on Turkey, said, “The con­tin­u­a­tion of [Turkey’s] state of emer­gency has dis­pro­por­tion­ate neg­a­tive ef­fects on Turk­ish so­ci­ety, and the ar­bi­trary ar­rest of thou­sands of ci­ti­zens, in­clud­ing par­lia­men­tar­i­ans and may­ors, is of ut­most con­cern to us. … We ex­pect the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to take the Venice Com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions se­ri­ously, as well as the fact that half the Turk­ish pop­u­la­tion voted against the changes in the ref­er­en­dum.”

Com­mis­sion’s con­clu­sions Er­do­gan had dis­missed the Venice Com­mis­sion’s con­clu­sions in March, say­ing the com­mis­sion “does not count for any­thing.”

“You can write as many re­ports as you want. We do not rec­og­nize your re­ports. We will not rec­og­nize them in the fu­ture, ei­ther, for your in­for­ma­tion,” he said.

Turk­ish daily Cumhuriyet noted a nu­ance in the adopted text of the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee: The ear­lier word­ing, “the ac­ces­sion talks should be sus­pended,” was changed to “should be sus­pended with­out de­lay,” thus hard­en­ing the Euro­pean stand re­gard­ing Turkey.

The text adopted in the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee will be put to de­bate July 5 at the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment and will be voted at the ple­nary par­lia­ment meet­ing July 6. Given the sig­nif­i­cant sup­port in the For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, where all the di­verse po­lit­i­cal groups and blocs of the Par­lia­ment are rep­re­sented pro­por­tion­ally, Par­lia­ment is likely to sus­pend ac­ces­sion talks with Turkey.

Piri, in an in­ter­view with the Turk­ish edi­tion of the BBC, ar­tic­u­lated the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s po­si­tion and said that de­spite the pro­posal’s strong word­ing, it doesn’t seek to end the ac­ces­sion im­me­di­ately. “With­out de­lay” refers to quick ac­tion Par­lia­ment should take if the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments are im­ple­mented at the next elec­tions in 2019. Yet she also re­it­er­ated that as fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights and supremacy of law are con­stantly vi­o­lated in Turkey, it is im­pos­si­ble to con­sider Turkey’s EU mem­ber­ship.

Al­though the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment has no ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers, it is more or less the EU’s trend-set­ting in­sti­tu­tion, and its res­o­lu­tion on Turkey in­di­cates the cli­mate Turkey should ex­pect in the near fu­ture. The res­o­lu­tion is cer­tain to cre­ate ad­di­tional up­roar in the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment.

Er­do­gan’s trip to Ger­many, set for just one day after the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s vote, could ac­cel­er­ate the on­com­ing crash. Er­do­gan will be at­tend­ing the G-20 meet­ing in Ham­burg, and this visit will be his first to the coun­try since he likened some of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment’s prac­tices to Nazism, which un­sur­pris­ingly in­fu­ri­ated the Ger­mans.

Er­do­gan, most prob­a­bly, will be re­ceived with protests by cer­tain Turk­ish and Kur­dish groups, and the German po­lice an­nounced they will not al­low a rep­e­ti­tion of what hap­pened re­cently in Wash­ing­ton, where the Turk­ish president’s se­cu­rity guards at­tacked peace­ful demon­stra­tors who were U.S. ci­ti­zens. Now, his se­cu­rity de­tail is wanted by U.S. law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties. Eyes will be fo­cused on Er­do­gan and his en­tourage, as ten­sions with his German hosts un­doubt­edly will grow. Two German halls, in Dort­mund and Ober­hausen, have al­ready re­jected Er­do­gan’s re­quest to de­liver talks to Turk­ish au­di­ences dur­ing his trip.

Turk­ish-EU skir­mishes

Er­do­gan’s visit, on top of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s stand on Turkey’s ac­ces­sion to the EU, will most likely ex­ac­er­bate on­go­ing Turk­ish-EU skir­mishes. The dis­mal hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion and vi­o­la­tions of basic free­doms in Turkey drive in­creas­ing con­cern in Europe.

Turk­ish op­po­si­tion leader Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu or­ga­nized a “March for Jus­tice” from Ankara to Is­tan­bul that be­gan June 15. The 480-kilo­me­ter (300-mile) march is ex­pected to take 23 days and is de­signed to gal­va­nize the op­po­si­tion, which is bit­ter over the al­legedly fraud­u­lent con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum, among other things. Thou­sands of op­po­si­tion mem­bers could de­scend on Is­tan­bul in mid-July if Er­do­gan al­lows the march to pro­ceed. He would then likely send se­cu­rity forces to con­front peace­fully march­ing crowds.

Those marchers, par­tic­i­pat­ing in what could be­come the big­gest public un­der­tak­ing in re­cent Turk­ish pol­i­tics, could very well ar­rive on the first an­niver­sary of the July 15 coup at­tempt. The gov­ern­ment is mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for mam­moth demon­stra­tions by Er­do­gan loy­al­ists to com­mem­o­rate “mar­tyrs” and cel­e­brate the “vic­tory of democ­racy” — mean­ing the con­sol­i­da­tion of Er­do­gan’s grip on power.

Imag­ine the tur­moil that could arise if th­ese two groups con­verge.

Adding to the tension are tri­als re­lated to the failed coup. The main trial, in which Er­do­gan ex­pected great fanfare in his fa­vor and against al­leged putschists, be­gan to pro­duce con­trary re­sults. Some tes­ti­mony proved coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for the Er­do­gan nar­ra­tive, so the trial was post­poned un­til Oct. 30.

How­ever, the first trial in­volv­ing prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists ac­cused of be­ing as­so­ci­ated with the Gulen move­ment, which is al­leged to have in­sti­gated the coup, has be­gun. Many Turk­ish me­dia out­lets, strictly con­trolled by Er­do­gan, are muted, yet the tri­als aren’t es­cap­ing in­ter­na­tional no­tice, and they add to Turkey’s bleak hu­man rights record.

The coun­try’s EU re­la­tions need a mir­a­cle. Now is the time to cross fin­gers, wait for July and pray that the sit­u­a­tion doesn’t get even worse.

The com­mit­tee em­pha­sized that Turkey’s pend­ing con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments grant­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary pow­ers to the pres­i­dency aren’t in line with the Copenhagen cri­te­ria — which are used to de­ter­mine a coun­try’s el­i­gi­bil­ity to join the EU — and called on mem­ber states to for­mally sus­pend ac­ces­sion talks with Turkey if the changes are im­ple­mented in their cur­rent form.

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