Sofia view: a Turkish progress report

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Turkey enters 2013 with a 270-page report listing its progress towards the EU. Europe Minister and Chief Negotiatior Egemen Bağış used the occasion to lambast, once more, the regular monitoring document issued by the European Commission back in October as “overshadowed by more subjective, biased, unwarranted and bigoted attitudes.” This is the same cabinet member who is fond of clamoring that Turkey was coming to the rescue of the crisis-hit EU.  Among the successes the new report lists is the increase of the number of women in parliament to 14.4 percent (though this happened in June 2011, not in 2012), the higher number of disabled people employed by the state and others. I much prefer the sketch of 2012 my friend Suat Kınıklıoğlu has prepared. It gives you a frank, unadulterated picture.

Unfortunately, the government-prepared report is available in Turkish only which essentially suggests that it is primarily for domestic consumption. I suppose that its tone will please neither Turkey’s friends in the EU nor the ever thinner group in Turkey who harbour EU sympathies. The latter mostly share the Commission’s criticism of the democratic backsliding in Turkey, particularly the lack of progress on the Kurdish dossier, jailed journalists, and the overall frustrating experience of working on a new civilian constitution (though now the news is that secret services supremo and PM confidante Hakan Fidan has started to talk, again, to PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan).  AKP’s erstwhile left-liberal, Europhile allies have now long withdrawn support from Erdoğan and team, whom they once saw as the best bet for democratisation and doing away with the military-bureaucratic tutelage over the country's political life. It’s a sad, disheartening story – do read Andrew Finkel’s elegiac piece about the slow and painful demise of the daily Taraf, the mouthpiece of anti-Kemalist liberalism, always ready to boldly thread on the next taboo topic.

As ever there’s a silver lining. The Cypriot Presidency of the Council is over. With Ireland taking the helm EU-Turkey relations can register modest progress – for instance on visa-free travel. The EU roadmap is out, and implementing it is incumbent on Ankara signing a long-awaited readmission agreement. What’s more the Commission, referring to a European Court of Justice ruling from 2009, has ruled that Turkish citizens can enter freely Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark for up to 3 months if they present proof that they are service providers.

 

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