Turkey’s chances of a breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.
The foreign ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany on Friday to explain the harsh language directed at the chancellor, Angela Merkel, by Egemen Bağis, the Turkish official in charge of negotiations with the EU.
Merkel had said earlier this week that she was “appalled at the very tough” response by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in ordering riot police to clear central Istanbul of thousands of protesters last weekend.
Bağis accused the chancellor of playing domestic politics, said that anyone using Turkey for political purposes would suffer “an inauspicious end” and warned of severe retaliation if the negotiations were called off.
Turkey opened negotiations to join the EU eight years ago, at the same time as Croatia. While Croatia joins next week as the 28th member, Turkey’s bid has been frozen for three years…Merkel and the German centre-right remain firmly opposed to Turkey joining. Her Christian Democrats’ draft manifesto for the general elections in September states: “We reject full membership for Turkey because it does not meet the conditions for EU entry…”
Negotiations were supposed to resume next week after a long hiatus because the French president, François Hollande, lifted the block imposed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a gesture of goodwill. Talks were to take place on regional development, an issue that could have influenced Ankara’s policy towards parts of the south-east populated mainly by Kurds who have long been campaigning for greater rights and more devolved government.
But Germany and the Netherlands are refusing a green light for next week’s resumption, triggering a European debate over the most sensible response to the turmoil in Turkey.
Discussions about how to respond to the turmoil in Turkey have nothing to do with either the causes of the turmoil or core reasons for the refusal of admittance. The turmoil results from a populist government trying to cure every modernist problem it sees with the hammer of suppression.
Rejection of Turkey’s membership in the greater economy the EU affords is a twofold reaction to a government in Turkey led by a liar and hypocrite. The years of Erdoğan’s populist government have been characterized by his wink and a nod to a goal of crushing modernism, secular freedoms central to Turkey’s constitution. He’s given the wink to his rural religious supporters and nodded assent to the constitution – while plotting its demise.