Opposition lawmaker dismayed over stalled EU process

ANKARA: A lawmaker from the main opposition party expressed dismay over the dismal state of the EU accession process and revealed growing exasperation on the Turkish side, which identifies being part of Europe’s elite political club as a fundamental objective of the Republic of Turkey.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Engin Altay struck a skeptical stance about the prospect of EU accession, a process that has been stalled due to long-standing discord between Brussels and Ankara and claimed that Turkey has been subjected to unfair treatment in comparison to other candidates.

Accompanied by a delegation, Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, held talks with Turkish opposition parties a day after meeting with the Turkish prime minister and EU minister in Ankara. Altay’s critical remarks came after he met with Brok.

The EU delegation paid visits to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and to main opposition CHP. Altay said he welcomed the visit by the EU delegation on March 18, a date which has symbolic meaning for the country, as it marks the centennial of the victory at Gallipoli against the Allied Powers in 1915.

Addressing a number of challenges that Turkey faces, Altay argued that Turkish democracy is shrinking and that the judiciary is politicized. He stressed that the principle of secularism is suffering due to recent political moves, that the economy is in tatters and that developments taking place in Turkey do not bode well for the future of the country. He placed great emphasis on reviving the process of EU accession as a means to strengthen Turkish democracy. However, he also voiced resentment over Europe’s handling of the accession process.

Brok also provided a bleak account, pointing to the worsening state of freedoms in Turkey. As Brok made clear, Turkey can only gain membership to the EU once it meets the Copenhagen criteria. Speaking to reporters after meeting with the MHP, Brok said the EU understands Ankara’s security concerns, after the government recently adopted a controversial security bill that grants law enforcement greater power and immunity to judicial oversight, but that the it strongly recommends the preservation of individual rights.

“We are closely monitoring the events surrounding the recent internal security bill with regard to the balance between security concerns and the freedom of individuals,” Brok said. When asked about the arrests of prominent journalist Mehmet Baransu and STV Head Hidayet Karaca, Brok stressed that Turkey must respect freedom of expression.