Soon the German President Joachim Gauck will visit Turkey. The visit will be the first high-ranking EU member state representative visit after the March 30 local elections. It is worth noting that at the beginning of 2014, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a number of very high-level meetings with representatives of major EU countries, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Francois Hollande, EU President Herman Van Rompuy, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the European Parliament Speaker Martin Schultz.
These meetings and the premier's visit to Brussels have been arranged as part of a very successful choreography, and apart from some behind- the-door anecdotes that leaked into the mass media, almost no negative note has been visible. All in all, there was definitely a shared interest on both sides to revive relations and to give an impetus to the negotiation's dynamics.
It goes without saying that the turmoil in Ukraine has definitely pushed both partners toward each other. The emergence of a new and very dangerous divide in Eastern Europe has dissuaded Turkey from entering into any deeper relations with Putin's Russia. It has on the other hand shown to the EU that Turkey definitely plays a very important stabilizing role in the region.
In the short run though, apart from a very important legislative amendment package that has been accepted by the Parliament, aiming at totally abrogating tribunals of exception and bringing to European standards periods of detention, Turkey has done nothing that could be seen as harmonizing with the Acquis Communautaire.
On the contrary, an ill-advised policy of severing Internet access to some social media communication systems have been depicted, not only by the opposition but also buy foreign sources, as the government's unwillingness to play the democratic game.
The government's policy of containing the below-the-belt attacks on the part of Gülen's Movement very dynamically and violently has helped to mobilize a large part of AK Party's traditional electorate. Local elections have been won, however the repercussions on the international arena have been detrimental to the image of both the government and Turkey.
This does definitely not look irreversible, but for the time being, apart from the visa deal with the EU, not much seems to be in the pipeline for EU harmonization.
The real challenge for Turkey is not really discussed in the domestic media nor among international circles. There are almost 1 million Syrian refugees on Turkish soil. One-quarter of them live in refugee camps that are, despite being well managed, at the end of the day still refugee camps. The remaining part lives with relatives or by whatever means are available to them. It becomes more and more obvious that these people will not be able to go back to their homeland for at least 10 to 20 years.
Very much like the Spaniards who took refuge on French soil after the end of their civil war in 1939, most of these people will have to settle in Turkey, integrating into society. Turkey, since its foundation, has been a lifeboat for all refugees of different provinces of the former Ottoman Empire. They came mostly from the Balkans, the Caucasus and Crimea.
This will be, 91 years after the proclamation of Turkish Republic, the greatest mass exodus from an ex-province of the empire. How Turkey will be able to deal with such a huge problem will definitely show whether this country is a modern democracy, capable to integrate vast populations, or whether she has become already too post-modern to ask for help from the EU to guard her frontiers.
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