EU Turkey Rapporteur: Structural Issues the Basis for Shortcomings in Turkish Democracy
The accession negotiations to make Turkey a member of the European Union began more than a decade ago, but has recently become troubled as Europe criticizes the democratic backslide in Turkey. After 14 years, when the European Council confirmed that Turkey had sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen Political Criteria, we now are very far from that situation. Those who expected the negotiations to bring Turkey ever closer to the EU and consolidate democracy in Turkey were proven wrong and the accession process is practically frozen. During President Erdogan’s recent visit to Paris, President Macron suggested to rethink the relations between the EU and Turkey not in terms of integration, but in terms of cooperation — a partnership.
The stakes of Turkish democracy at this extremely crucial point in time bring us to the very relevant “Challenges to Democracy in Turkey” roundtable, where senior fellow Kadri Tastan spoke with MEP and EU Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri about the situation in Turkey and the European perspective on a way forward.
Kadri Tastan: What are the most important shortcomings in Turkish democracy today given the political condition of Turkey? What point would be the most pronounced in the upcoming EU Commission progress report?
Kati Piri: The structural issues. Of course, we have a very strong concern about the state of emergency still being in place — I think that is the basis for the many violations of human rights. But even if the state of emergency is lifted and the same structure is still there, with a new constitution many concerns remain; such as the independence of the judiciary and the lack of the separation of powers. To give an example, recently the constitutional court delivered two decisions on the constitutional complaints of two journalists, finding their detention to be unconstitutional but a lower court rejected the decisions as void because of “usurpation of competence” and refused to enact them. These are the very strong structural problems that are alarming for the future of Turkey.
Kadri Tastan: What is Turkey’s approach to human rights? Are all of government’s actions within the normal boundary of a state of emergency?
Kati Piri: I am not a legal expert. Politically I would say obviously “No” because then we would not have concerns about what is happening now in Turkey. But even legal experts of the Council of Europe have been very clear. For instance, making comparisons between the state of emergency that was in place in France and the state of emergency in Turkey. Turkey went through a horrible thing on the night of July 16, 2016. Logically a state of emergency would have addressed that threat specifically, which was related to why there is a state of emergency now. But it actually went into every sector of society. Anyone who dares to oppose or question any government policy right now is being perceived as a person who has committed the coup attempt themselves.
Kadri Tastan: It seems that Turkey will accept nothing less than full membership in the EU. What does it mean to have statements like the one from Macron about any other forms of partnership?
Kati Piri: We know from the beginning, from the very beginning of the accession talks, we knew that there was not one opinion inside the EU, right? We just thought, we’ll deal with it at a later stage. The French have never been in favour of full membership of Turkey. This is not a change of policy, it has been the policy, it has been the policy of Sarkozy, and it hasn’t changed under Macron or Hollande. The German Christian Democrats have also been very sceptical for other reasons I think Angela Merkel toned down her voice probably because of the refugee deal, but they never hide what their intention is. Europe never had one vision on it, it doesn’t mean the process wasn’t genuine from the beginning, but it was never unanimous from the beginning. Now what I say is I keep hearing this coming from the Turkish government that they really care. That there is only one option that it shouldn’t come with others. I just don’t understand that after all these years by now of concern, not one of the concerns of the EU, the UN, Council of Europe, is being taken into consideration. if they really think this is the aim, you cannot just keep talking about it and not acting.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.