Has the EU delegation to Turkey left Ankara?

I remember the and’90s it was a tough period for Turkey.
Particularly in the late and’90s and early 2000s, Turkey faced many problems in terms of democratization. Despite such tough challenges, Turkey was tremendously successful. Though it experienced an economic crisis, late Prime Minister Bandulent Ecevitand’s government carried out many important reforms under the rubric of pursuing membership in the European Union. Many structural reforms were carried out under the leadership of Ecevit. EU-inspired reforms continued during the early period of the Justice and Development Partyand’s (AKP) rule, too.
There was a critical fact about all those years of pro-EU reforms: The EU delegation in Ankara played a key role. I still remember the names of former representatives of the EU in Ankara. For instance, I remember Gandunter Verheugen. His contribution to Turkeyand’s reforms is unforgettable. Throughout the and’90s and early 2000s, the EU representatives and diplomats in Ankara were the virtual protectors of Turkish democracy, but how about today? We are witnessing all types of ultra-authoritarian practices in Turkey. What is the official position of EU representatives and other officials in Turkey regarding those practices?
EU diplomats have almost lost their leverage in Turkey. No major newspaper quotes them. As an academic working in Ankara, I have no idea about the EU delegationand’s position on many recent developments. Donand’t they care? Or do they have a new strategy of silence? EU officials in Turkey should realize that serious developments are taking plac and that they need to be somehow involved in the whole story. The EU is a transnational institution, so an EU diplomat cannot be just a simple observer. In another sense, because the EU is a transnational organization, Turkeyand’s problems are also the problems of the EU diplomats who live in Ankara.
There is also a critically worrisome rumor. This might be a typical Ankara rumor, so I am not criticizing anyone. But the presence of such rumors also speaks to the performance of EU officials in Turkey. How are EU funds distributed among Turkish civil and governmental institutions? If one were to list organizations using EU funds in terms of their ideological positions (i.e., being pro- or anti-government), what would such a list tell us? There are hundreds of so-called NGOs in Turkey that are de facto parties to the governmentand’s authoritarian strategy. I hope the EU Commission is certain that EU money is not going to the various organizations that act as enablers of authoritarianism in Turkey. Equally important in this vein is the performance of Turkish public institutions in distributing EU funds. Turkey has become a highly polarized society. The EU should be very sensitive to the performance of Turkish public officials who distribute their funds to third Turkish parties.
Beyond the funding issue, EU diplomats in Ankara need a new strategy. First of all, they need a new approach to briefing the Turkish public about their position on various developments. Turkish society needs to hear the EUand’s position on important events that happen in Turkey. Secondly, EU diplomats need a new strategy towards pro-EU journalists and intellectuals in Turkey. Those people need more concrete support, including the physical presence of EU diplomats at various events.
Despite many problems, the EU is a key organization for Turkish democracy. EU officials in Turkey can regularly remind Turkish authorities that authoritarianism comes with serious costs to the economy, democracy and foreign policy. It is very likely that the EU will be more influential in Turkey in the upcoming period. It is also very likely that the EU will find a huge field of influence in Turkish politics in the months ahead.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman