AKP had no EU project

In my article concerning the parties’ election manifestos (May 3, 2015), I argued that a cursory look at the election manifestos reveals that Turkey’s ties with the European Union and membership negotiations no longer constitute a major topic in the country’s domestic political scene.

Parliament Speaker Cemil cicek’s car metaphor is more striking: quotThe negotiations with the EU are spinning in space we are burning fuel at the red lights.quot (Hurriyet newspaper, May 4, 2015) In fact, the situation is worse. Not only the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) EU policy, but also its overall policies remind one of a sailing ship that has lost its course and whose captain has gone crazy. The passengers who had boarded the vessel with the hope of a long journey are now leaving the ship, the captain is on a witch hunt among the crew and the passengers can get no sleep for fear of a mutiny. He accuses even the people closest to him of treason, and the ship is left to the mercy of the wind and waves. There is no compass to predict where the vessel is headed. As to those leaving the ship, I am not referring only to the Gulen community. You will understand what I mean if you look at where the groups then-Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quotthankedquot for their support after the 2010 referendum are now standing.

Anyway, this introduction may do some injustice to an article about the AKP’s election manifesto and EU policy. Perhaps I should have skimmed through the manifesto and written about what the party said on the matter in order to be objective. However, the AKP’s comprehensive 380-page election manifesto does not have a heading about EU policy or EU membership negotiations. Worse still, EU matters are not discussed even under the title quotA Visionary and Leading County,quot which is about foreign policy. No special room is given to the EU in the subheading, quotRegional and International Cooperationquot and relations with the EU are discussed after relations with other regional organizations. The AKP notes that that they initiated the negotiations in 2005, but tries to find a scapegoat for the recent lack of progress by saying, quotProgress was blocked by some member countries due to political considerations.quot

The AKP is not just any party, but a ruling party that has been in office since 2002. quotDeeds are the true mirror of a man’s quality / As the mental caliber of a man is reflected in his deeds,quot wrote the great Turkish poet Ziya Paia in one of his poems. Therefore, we have to assess the ruling party by its deeds, not its promises. Its election manifesto may give us hints about the party’s future policies but does not offer any hints with regard to EU affairs.

The reference to the political considerations of some member countries existed when the negotiations were initiated in 2005. Despite these quotconsiderations,quot Turkey could make progress. Although France’s quotconsiderationsquot changed after former President Nicholas Sarkozy left office, Turkey failed to make any progress. The main reason for this stagnation seems clearer today. All indications suggest that President Erdogan and his close circles believe the EU’s democratic criteria and acquis contradict their policies and targets. They don’t like the rule of law or democratic controls.

Many people wrongly assume that quotnegotiationsquot with the EU are nothing but a process of quotbargaining.quot However, any negotiated chapter is about whether the candidate country has made any progress with respect to EU norms. So there is no negotiation on the quotnorms.quot For instance, the Employment and Social Policies Chapter (Chapter 19) cannot be opened for 10 years although there are no quotpolitical considerationsquot involved. The only obstacle to the opening of Chapter 19 is Turkey’s refusal to comply with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) criteria regarding working life, trade union rights and labor security. We are miles away from complying with the criteria, so it would be delusional to open it. If the AKP had taken the EU negotiations seriously and complied even with some of the ILO criteria, the Soma disaster and other work accidents would not have happened. Other examples can be given, such as the topic of public tenders.

To sum it up, the powers that be within the AKP see the EU process as being in contradiction with the quotpresidential systemquot project. These powers do not like the effective control mechanisms of the rule of law and Copenhagen criteria. Therefore, the AKP no longer cares about the EU bid. And the ship’s course is unknown.