LALE – EU will not be the first to pull the plug

EU will not be the first to pull the plugThe Turkish governmentand#39s latest crackdown on the media has drawn strong criticism from the European Union, of which it is a candidate member nation, raising some expectations among many Turks that the bloc might sever or freeze relations with Turkey. Yet Brussels, where the EU headquarters are located and where the decisions on behalf of the union are made, is not prepared to pull the plug first unless Ankara takes the initial step to this end.

Turkish-EU relations in any case had already soured several years ago and accession negotiations have not been taking place either Yet dialogue as well as trade between the two continue as Turkeyand#39s biggest trading partners are EU member states.The detention and arrest of senior journalists as well as TV scriptwriters and some police officers on Dec.

14 as part of the governmentand#39s ongoing witch hunt against growing opposition against its draconian style of governance has prompted a strong reaction from both the EU and the US, Turkeyand#39s close ally.Ekrem DumanlI, editor-in-chief of Turkeyand#39s best-selling Zaman daily, was released after being interrogated pending trial together with others, including TV scriptwriters, while Hidayet Karaca, the senior executive of Samanyolu TV, was arrested alongside police officers on the charges of attempting to andldquousurp the sovereignty of the Turkish Republic,andrdquo among other things.

Such charges directed against members of the press as well as the others have no basis as the prosecutors failed to back their allegations with evidence.In addition, in reality neither the journalists nor the police officers have the tools to usurp the sovereignty of a nation.

Taking into consideration the fact that dozens of Gezi protesters from the 2013 anti-government demonstrations are currently being tried on charges of attempting to unseat the government through a coup, this also demonstrates the ruling Justice and Development Partyand#39s (AKP) bizarre psychology of profiling the opposition as a potential threat to its rule.The fresh operations on Dec.

14 against the media are part of an ongoing larger campaign by the government as well as President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan to silence, intimidate and censor the growing opposition, in particular the media, so that high-profile corruption and bribery allegations leveled against some government members as well as ErdoIan himself can be buried.As this column went to press, a parliamentary commission, represented by a strong AKP majority, was going to decide whether four former ministers implicated in the corruption scandal and who were forced to resign will be tried by the Supreme State Council or not.

Moreover, behind the government crackdown on the opposition is the reflection of ErdoIanand#39s strong determination to finally introduce a one-man, autocratic rule.Against a background where the government made a big U-turn from basic rights and freedoms, will the EU, for instance, freeze ties with Turkey or will the US extradite Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen whose movement the Turkish government has vowed to finish off? Gulen is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, US.

In fact the Dec. 14 media operations targeted pro-Gulen papers Zaman and Bugun as well as Samanyolu TV.

Late last week, a Turkish court issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, which is seen as a step towards an Interpol Red Notice and ultimately extradition from the US.If and once a formal request is made to the US for Gulenand#39s extradition, will Washington hand over this Islamic scholar in return for Ankara actively taking part in an ongoing military campaign initiated by a US-led WesternArab coalition to defeat the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has renamed itself the Islamic State (IS)?.

The US attaches great importance to an active role by Turkey, including permitting access to the Incirlik air base in the fight against the IS due to its geographical location in the Middle East neighboring both Iraq and SyriaIn Ankara there is an ongoing debate over whether the US might hand over Gulen in return for gaining access to Incirlik, from which they would stage air strikes against the IS.Yet there are strong signals coming from Washington that there is no way that Gulen can be extradited since the accusations leveled by the Turkish government against him are of a political nature.

On the EU front, an Ankara-based Western diplomatic source recently told me the union will not make the first move to pull the plug with Turkey.andldquoIf Turkey pulls the plug, the EU will then in return freeze ties with Ankara From a security [civil war in Syria] as well as an energy security standpoint, Turkish-EU relations should continue,andrdquo he noted.

From an international relations viewpoint, under which relations among nations are based on interests and not friendships, the EUand#39s policy of maintaining dialogue with Turkey despite Ankaraand#39s gross violation of democratic principles is normal, though not necessarily ethical. This rationale by the EU should be a reminder to Turks that democratic gains can only be achieved by citizens themselves and not by outsiders on their behalf.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman