A new era must start in Turkish-EU relations

Published 10.11.2015 02:12

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) achieved a great success in the Nov. 1 early general elections, and with broad repercussions.

Voters reappointed the AK Party with an outstanding majority. The party will come to power in Parliament on Nov. 18, 2015, recalling the date when the AK Party first took office as a ruling party on Nov. 18, 2002.

Following the election and the government's recent record, the EU must attentively examine the facts in Turkey, including the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is a voice not only of Turkey, but for Muslims in many regions of the world; the AK Party, which has succeeded in every election despite facing provocations and conspiracies, and the Turkish electorate, who have embraced democracy despite tests from terrorist attacks and coup attempts.

The EU should attentively consider this New Turkey. It is rather different from the old Turkey, which used to kneel down before EU officials. New Turkey is a democratic republic, ridden of draconian practices such as capital punishment and torture, and cleansed of policies limiting freedom of faith and thought. New Turkey does not expect an undeserved EU membership to be bestowed upon it as the old Turkey did.

New Turkey is already more deserving of EU membership than many current EU countries and does not lack anything in relation to the Copenhagen Criteria, Maastricht Criteria or EU norms.

New Turkey sets a perfect example of democracy to the Islamic world and has a crucial role to play to establishing permanent peace in the Middle East. What is more, no cooperation is possible in the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans, Caucasus or Aegean without Turkey. G20 leaders are to gather in Turkey's Antalya province next week, which is a telling symbol of how Turkey has developed and how fast and efficiently it has democratized, modernized and strengthened.

The EU can take the right steps for its own future and interests by making a fresh start with New Turkey, Erdoğan and the AK Party government, all of which enjoy resounding public support.

The government is currently reorganizing its ministries following Nov. 1, planning to increase the number of deputy prime ministry seats to five, and restructure some ministries, including the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, Culture and Tourism Ministry, Youth and Sports Ministry, Transportation and Maritime Affairs Ministry, Forestry and Water Affairs Ministry and Customs and Trade Ministry. They also plan to form new ministries in accordance with current values and concerns, such as a Human Rights and Migration Ministry. With the new government, urgent steps are expected to be made in five critical areas. Firstly, efforts to draft a new constitution and introduce a presidential system are about to be initiated. With this, the current Constitution, which was penned by the military regime following the coup on Sept. 12, 1980, can be discarded and the public can finally have a constitution they deserve.

Furthermore, a revival of economic development is planned with the Economic Transformation Program and steps will continue to be taken to realize the goals targeted for 2023. While ceaselessly maintaining the fight against the outlawed PKK, the government also intends to implement a national unity and brotherhood project with new actors against terrorism with the aim of repairing the sabotaged reconciliation process.

Most importantly, though, the EU membership process will be accelerated with strong diplomacy. In a nutshell, far from giving up the idea of membership, Ankara is willing to speed up the realization of its EU targets. And the EU has a crucial responsibility at this point. Some senior authorities from the EU will visit Turkey this week. Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn will be in Ankara with a delegation comprising the European Commission spokesman and the European Commission first vice president. During their visit to Ankara, authorities from the EU and Turkey are going to negotiate the EU-Turkey joint action plan on which they are working in an effort to resolve the refugee crisis.

At the same time, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici are traveling to Turkey to join the G20 summit in Antalya on Nov. 15-16. These positive developments also signify an opportunity to be seized.

Along with the refugee crisis, the EU must also negotiate with Ankara within the context of the EU's future, and it has to demonstrate that it correctly interprets New Turkey when dealing with issues such as visa implementations and chapters that Ankara rightfully expects to be opened.

If the EU behaves as if it were still addressing the old Turkey rather than the new, it will be the disadvantaged party.

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