Europe And Turkey’s Constitutional Reform

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Amidst German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey this week, Spiegel Online published a lengthy interview yesterday with Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan .
The interview touched on most of the familiar subjects – including Iran’s nuclear program, the Armenian genocide resolution controversy, and Turkey’s ongoing negotiations to join the European Union.
The interview failed, however, to address the status of Prime Minister Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) constitutional reform proposal that is scheduled to be presented to Parliament today.
This is not terribly surprising given Turkey’s centrality to Europe’s foreign policy challenges in the Middle East, but the unfolding constitutional controversy is likely to become a key issue between Brussels and Ankara in the coming months with implications for Turkey’s EU membership bid.
Reforming Turkey’s anachronistic 1982 constitution – which was written in the aftermath of a military coup – is a key prerequisite for Turkey’s admission to the European Union. Europe is concerned that Turkey’s powerful judiciary and military be brought under civilian control, and with extending certain liberal freedoms to Turkish citizens.
As Gareth Jenkins explains, the problem is that the AKP proposal contains only some of the EU requirements, and includes several items that have not been demanded by Europe, but are meant to consolidate the party’s power.
Thus far, key European Union officials have supported the proposal, with the caveat that they would like to see negotiation and input from Turkey’s opposition parties, which are closely aligned with the military and the judiciary and are steadfastly opposed to the proposal.
It is likely that the opposition will refuse to support the constitutional reforms and that Prime Minister Erdogan and his party will be compelled to put their proposal to a popular referendum.
In that case, Europe will be put in a very difficult position. On the one hand, it supports constitutional reform in principle and some elements of the AKP proposal in practice. On the other hand, unilateral, incremental amendments to Turkey’s constitution are far from ideal from the European perspective.
If this scenario plays out, the seemingly mundane issue of Turkish constitutional reform may become a very hot topic in Brussels and a defining moment for Turkey’s European Union candidacy.
More soon.
— Ben Katcher

Comments

14 comments on “Europe And Turkey’s Constitutional Reform

  1. ... says:

    nadine quote “basing all your foreign policy judgments on projection of your American values, which are formed by the American system, is an exercise in proud ignorance.”
    … quote “basing all your foreign policy judgments on projection of your israel values, which are formed by the israel system, is an exercise in proud ignorance.”

    Reply

  2. JohnH says:

    So, Nadine, what values do you espouse?
    Ah, yes, whatever is good for Israel…
    Frankly, I’ve had enough of dividing the world up into “chosen” people and unchosen ones.

    Reply

  3. nadine says:

    JohnH, basing all your foreign policy judgments on projection of your American values, which are formed by the American system, is an exercise in proud ignorance. Turkey does not function like America, and never has.

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  4. JohnH says:

    Nadine says, “The military has functioned as the guardian of democracy in Turkey.” Talk about an oxymoron! The military as the protector of democracy? The two are totally incompatible ways of viewing the world–authoritarian vs. democratic.
    One of the revolutionary, guiding principals of American democracy was firm, civilian, democratic control over the military. The founding fathers clearly recognized that an assertive military was a clear and present danger to democracy, and they needed to be kept under control.
    Yet once again, here we have the “Israel right or wrong crowd” advocating blatantly un-American values, simply because the Turkish military has traditionally been sympathetic to the highly militarized Israeli government.
    There is a chasm between pro-Israeli values and American values.

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  5. Sweetness says:

    ….,
    You’d have to lob an Etanyahu to make it work.
    I wonder if there’s some meaning to the captcha numbers and
    letters one gets?

    Reply

  6. ... says:

    one could lob back a netanyahu as well….that would be even better…for anything that erdogan does stands up really well next to netanyahu… but then far better to not talk about israel politicians for those not wanting anyone to consider the large elephant in the room….

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  7. Sweetness says:

    I fear “Turkey” is going to become to TWN readers as “Niagra Falls” was to the Three Stooges.
    Or WWI. For every “Erdogan” Wig lobs, POA will lob back an “Edmonds.”

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  8. nadine says:

    The military has functioned as the guardian of democracy in Turkey, strange as it sounds. Considering how the AKP has already been silencing opposition, if the AKP puts through its new constitution, it would be reasonable to expect that the AKP will never face real elections again. Islamists don’t believe in risking getting voted out of power. When Allah is in your corner, you don’t have to feel bad about changing the rules; in fact, it’s your duty to Allah.
    I’d love to be proven wrong about this. But I very much doubt it.

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  9. JohnH says:

    Wigwag says, “Even a cursory reading of the amendments makes clear that few of them are related to increasing civil rights and most are related to undermining the AKP’s adversaries in the military…”
    As if there were anything wrong with removing the military’s veto over social and economic policy. Fact is, the 1982 constitution was written intentionally to preserve the authoritarian military’s dominance against its adversaries, ordinary Turks. Americans should be delighted when the constitution puts the military back in its place–under civilian authority. Apparently, Wigwag prefers military governments.

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  10. Dan Kervick says:

    Europe has a diversity of traditions on religious garb and symbols in public, and nevertheless has a union. The hijab issue seems to show the same diversity of European attitudes, and hardly gives evidence of some monolithic

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  11. ... says:

    ” wigwag quote The dispute about whether or not to ban the Hajib is the perfect metaphor for the increasing divergence of Turkey and the EU nations.”
    divide and conquer…
    The dispute about whether or not to build more settlements in east jerusalem is the perfect metaphor for the increasing divergence of israel and the EU nations.

    Reply

  12. WigWag says:

    The dispute about whether or not to ban the Hajib is the perfect metaphor for the increasing divergence of Turkey and the EU nations.
    In Turkey, one of the main platforms of the AKP has been to fight for the right of Muslim women to wear head scarves in universities, courts and other public buildings. While the issue of head scarves is still controversial in Turkey there seems to be momentum in the direction of allowing the Hajib to be worn in public places. There are some estimates that as many as 60 percent of Turkish women wear the head scarf. A fictionalized but fascinating rendition of this emotional dispute can be found by reading “Snow,” the wonderful book by Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk.
    The trend in the EU nations is in precisely the opposite direction. More and more European nations are banning the Hajib. Head scarves are banned in schools and public buildings in France as are all outward displays of “ostensible religious articles” unless they are discrete. France is also considering banning the wearing of the burqua in all public places. In 2009, President Sarkozy said,
    “…burqas are “not welcome in France…In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity…”
    In Germany, 8 of the nations 16 states ban the wearing of the Hajib in public places but 5 of those 8 states permit the wearing of Christian symbols. Muslim women in Germany are forbidden to drive while wearing the Burqua.
    In Italy, legislation has been introduced by members of Prime Minister Berlusconi’s political party to ban the Hajib but it has not yet been enacted.
    In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders Party has continuously proposed legislation banning the Hajib but it has not yet passed. Wilders’ Party is becoming increasingly popular and a recent public opinion poll showed that 62 percent of Dutch citizens approve of banning the Hajib while 32 percent oppose it.
    In the United Kingdom, the debate about whether to ban Islamic garb has been a long standing one. In 2006 then British Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as a “mark of separation”. During the same year, Lord Chancellor Jack Straw, initiated a nation-wide controversy on “the veil” by criticizing its use. David Cameron’s political party is viewed as more sympathetic to a ban on the head scarf than the Labor Party and if the Tory’s win, a ban on Muslim garb will have a stronger chance of being enacted.
    Prohibitions on Muslim garb have also been proposed in several Scandinavian nations and in Switzerland (not part of the EU).
    Could we ask for a disagreement more emblematic of the diverging views of the EU and Turkey?
    Can the EU and Turkey really coexist within the same Union?

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  13. WigWag says:

    “The problem is that the AKP proposal contains only some of the EU requirements, and includes several items that have not been demanded by Europe, but are meant to consolidate the party’s power.” (Ben Katcher)
    That’s an understatement.
    Even a cursory reading of the amendments makes clear that few of them are related to increasing civil rights and most are related to undermining the AKP’s adversaries in the military and the courts.
    A brief description of the amendments can be found here,
    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=articles-2010-03-23
    This is all beside the point. Isn’t it time to give up on the fiction that Turkey is going to be admitted to the EU? Turkey and the European Union are moving away from each other not towards each other.
    Hostility towards Muslims in general and Turks in particular is on the rise throughout Europe. Enthusiasm for EU membership is on the decline in Turkey and Turkey is moving closer to authoritarian nations in the Middle East that Europe views with suspicion such as Iran and Syria.
    Perpetrating the myth that a marriage is in the offing should be embarrassing to both the Europeans and the Turks. Like a couple who gets engaged for all the wrong reasons only to discover that they really have nothing in common, it’s time for the Europeans and the Turks to get a grip and face reality; they actually don’t like each other very much.
    None of this means that they can’t coexist or have a civil and productive relationship; it just means that Turkey and Europe shouldn’t be attached at the hip anymore than the United States and Mexico should be attached at the hip.
    Most importantly, given the precarious economic condition of Europe and given the financial instability that shows no signs of abating, Europe just can’t afford to take on a nation as poor as Turkey.
    After all, Turkey, a nation with a population of 73 million people has a GDP (S730 billion) which is only 52 percent of the GDP of New York City, (1.406 trillion) a city of 8.4 million people.
    The Europeans are too busy subsidizing the Turk’s old enemy, Greece, to be inclined to admit another economic basket case to their increasingly precarious Union.

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  14. chumanist says:

    If the EU’s policy architects took considerable time for the unanimous approval of the common constitution of Europe-the Lisbon Treaty there appears logical basis- should not the European Union leadership in Brussels be reasonably cool minded to give Ankara some manageable time for chartering the reforms solicited by the EU?

    Reply

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