Member states differ on how to promote democracy, human rights and good governance in Turkey. The EU’s impact on domestic politics is waning as the prospect of accession becomes more distant.
With the EU divided on the issue of Turkey’s membership, its leverage on domestic politics has dramatically decreased, especially compared to the period 2002-2006. The EU is still divided on how to handle Turkey’s domestic transformation. While all member states support democratisation, they are not all prepared to uphold the membership perspective (see component 44). The EU continues to monitor democratic performance and human rights in the country, but its voice is heard less and less.
Political elites and media largely ignored the European Commission’s regular report on Turkey published in the first week of November, which measures, among other things, the progress of democratic consolidation and the state of human and minority rights inside the country. The EU was not a major point of reference in the constitutional referendum held on 12 September either, although the Commission hailed the outcome and called for the democratic changes ratified by the body politic to be fully implemented. Some voices in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and even within the liberal intelligentsia argue that Turkey does not need the European anchor any more. Turkey also often blames the West (essentially big EU members and the US) for encouraging Kurdish separatism.
One positive outcome for the EU was the shift in position by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main opposition force that represents the secular Kemalist constituencies. Having in the past taken a nationalist and often anti-EU line, its new leadership criticised the government for failing to abide by the “true” democratic standards of the EU. However, although this was a positive development, it had little to do with EU influence. The only way the EU could significantly increase its leverage on domestic developments is through unblocking membership talks and upholding the accession perspective.