Turkey-EU relations after referendum

Published 12.04.2017 22:45

The Turkish public will head to the polls to vote on constitutional amendments in next Sunday's referendum. Among the 18 items to be voted on, there are changes such as lowering the age of candidacy to 18 and increasing the number of deputies from 550 to 600. However, the main issue is the governmental model change.

If the constitutional amendment is voted for, Turkey, which is currently governed by a parliamentary system, will switch to a presidential system. According to the bill, which has significant similarities to the U.S.'s presidential model and France's semi-presidential system, voters will directly elect both the president and the government in the two polls that will be established at the same time.

While defining the authority of the president, who has unlimited authority and limited responsibility in the current system, the constitutional amendment package will impose political and legal responsibilities on the president to the extent of his authority.

The public will have the final say.

However, the attitude of countries in the EU in which Turkey is a prospective member has raised serious questions about the future of bilateral relations in the process that is heading toward the referendum.

Some EU countries have taken sides on the amendment that is the internal matter of a prospective member country, which is defined within the boundaries of its sovereignty and that is legitimate in terms of both the EU acquis and internal law. This biased attitude has gone down in the history of diplomacy as a black mark.

The German government "officially" announced that it supports the "no" bloc in the referendum. Moreover, it has unlawfully interfered with the "yes" bloc's campaigns in violation of human rights and freedom of expression on which Europe is built.

Those who overshot the mark further, such as the Austrian government, even proposed that voters with dual citizenship who vote for the constitutional change would be deported from Europe.

Of course, the most sensational of these scandals was the Netherlands' bad treatment and deportation of a female Turkish minister and some diplomats from the Turkish government, who support the amendment, in violation of the Venice Convention, under police custody.

Ankara gave the same harsh reaction to these populist policies, which EU countries often attempt to adopt to appeal to the ultra-nationalist voters at home, leading to deep tension in relations.

Now everyone in Turkey is asking the same question.

While Turkey has been striving to be a EU member for the past half century, how will Turkey-EU relations continue after the April 16 referendum, for the sake of which so many bridges have been burned?

If the constitutional amendment, in which the EU has interfered by overstepping the mark, is voted for, will the EU try to confine the free will of more than 50 million Turkish voters?

Or, if the other alternative happens and the constitutional amendment is rejected, as the EU wants, how can it restore relations with the current government, which supports the amendment and continues to remain in power?

Certainly, whatever the result of the referendum, it is obvious that nothing will be as it used to be. This is because no public can be willing to join a union that explicitly intervenes in their free will and categorically rejects their choice that is their honor. Also, they do not vote for politicians who promise this.

So, it does not seem to match the dynamics and realities of politics to expect moderation in stranded relations, which were first triggered by the EU in the short run.

It seems, however, that the EU will lose more as it has already lost the U.K., which seceded from the union and explained that it would continue its path in favor of its national interests.

Let us see when the people of Europe, who have become more isolated and introverted with populist administrations, will say stop to this collective madness and when they will take control of the administration of this civil society project that once looked promising.

We are waiting.

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