At an iftar dinner on Tuesday, Prime Minister Erdoğan launched heavy criticisms against the EU, once again accusing EU politicians of holding Turkey to different standards than those to which other acceding countries have been held. From TDN:
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday complained of the pace at which negotiations are being opened on the 35 policy areas that candidates must complete, and asked the EU be fair towards Turkey during its accession talks.Click here for the story from TDZ. For past analysis of the utter futility of these remarks, see Aug. 2 post. For a similar analysis of this most recent event, see Gareth Jenkins in today's EDM. From Jenkins:
His remarks followed criticism from the Turkish foreign minister on the pace of the accession process.
The process of opening and closing chapters in membership negotiations with the EU was prolonged unnecessarily, Erdogan said during a fast breaking dinner hosted Tuesday in Ankara in honor of foreign ambassadors and heads of foreign missions in Turkey.
"The number of chapter headings were fewer before. Before we even entered this process, opening and closing of chapters was not even an issue. Chapters were opened and closed. But now we are struggling for this," he was quoted by Anatolian Agency as saying.
He said this was not a fair approach, adding Turkey expected the EU to adopt the same approach it did with other candidates.
The EU opened the negotiations on two chapters of "company law" and "intellectual property law" in June in the accession talks, which began in 2005.
Although the opening of two new chapters signals progress in membership negotiations, 15 of 35 chapters remain suspended. The EU had suspended eight chapters in December 2006 due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels before the Union ends its isolation of Turkish Cypriots.
Erdogan also said Turkey was not asking for privileges.
"We say: we want you to give us the same rights you granted to others (candidates) before us. If you are seeing us as a burden --then that's a different story-- then say so. But you should know that Turkey is coming to relieve you of your burden, not to be a cause of burden. You should view Turkey like this," he said.
"However, we see that the EU is not as fast as Turkey in regards with negotiation chapters," said Erdogan, adding the EU made a habit of opening only two chapters at a time, thus slowing down the process.
There is no doubt that Erdogan has a point. It is no secret that although several EU member states are enthusiastic supporters of eventual Turkish accession, others—not the least France, which currently holds the EU presidency—have reservations about ever allowing the country to become a member. But the statements by both Erdogan and Babacan also demonstrated how far Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) remains from understanding the nature of the accession process or even the EU itself.
It has recently become fashionable in the pro-AKP media to blame the country’s current ills—including the economic slowdown and the government’s lack of attention to the EU accession process—on the closure case that was filed against the party on March 14 (see EDM, March 17). The AKP has, however, introduced no substantive EU reforms since the accession process was formally inaugurated in the early hours of October 4, 2005.
In his speech to the foreign ambassadors on September 16, Erdogan lambasted the EU for refusing to close any more chapters in the accession process. “In the past, chapters used to be opened and closed. Now, unfortunately, they are only opened,” lamented Erdogan (Radikal, Hurriyet, Vatan, Zaman, September 17).
Erdogan was referring to the EU’s decision in December 2006 to suspend negotiations on eight chapters and refuse to close any others until Turkey extended its 1996 customs union agreement with the EU to include the Republic of Cyprus, which became an EU member in May 2004. Turkey has long refused to recognize the Greek Cypriot government of the Republic of Cyprus or its authority over the entire island. Nevertheless, in order to ensure the official opening of accession negotiations in October 2005, the AKP signed what has become known as the Ankara Protocol in July 2005, in which it agreed to extend its customs union to the Republic of Cyprus, including opening Turkey’s ports and airports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes. It was Turkey’s refusal to honor this commitment that led to the December 2006 suspension of the eight chapters and the refusal to close any others. The AKP still appears unaware that refusing to sign the Ankara Protocol could have been defended as a matter of principle; signing and then refusing to implement it simply looks dishonest.