Tuesday, September 16, 2008

EU Ambitions and Political Realities (Part I)

Of central importance to Turkish democratization and advancement of human rights is Turkey's relationship with the European Union. The benefits to be reaped from EU membership are great, but Turkey's politicians have long been divided on the issue. While some see membership as the final step in Atatürk's modernization of the country along European lines, the fulfillment of the great leaders' enormous and life-giving desire to see the Turkish Republic recognized as a formidable European power, others see the costs of membership as sacrificing the very tenets upon which the country was founded.

Fresh from surviving charges of anti-secularism that threatened it with closure (see Aug. 1 post), AKP, Turkey's ruling party, has released the country's third National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA) (click here for a draft complete with all sorts of grammatical oddities). The NPAA essentially lays out a game plan by which the Turkish government will work to harmonize Turkish law with that of the EU. In order to accede, Turkey must meet specific political and economic criteria, and in addition, align its policy with that of the EU according to 35 chapters of the acquis, each pertaining to different policy areas. These chapters will be unanimously opened and closed by the European Council throughout the accession process, and only upon closure of all 35 chapters will Turkey qualify for membership (see Aug. 21 post).

The third NPAA is a chance AKP to revivify Turkey's stalled EU accession process and rebolster the party's standing among European politicians and those Turkish liberals who had in the past supported it, but many of who have come to doubt its sincerity and/or competence in moving Turkey toward liberal democracy and eventual EU membership. Granted formal accession status in October 2005, the reform that had spurned enthusiasm from inside and outside the country slowed down. The reasons for this are manifold and have been largely referred to as "Europe fatigue." Most common among the many explanations for the slowdown is that many Turks, and perhaps even AKP, lost the political will to move forward with the reform process. Thus, this third national program will in many ways be a test for both the ruling party and the Turkish public.

As the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi—TBMM) prepares to enact the EU-inspired legislation that will align Turkish law closer to European norms, Turks will again face heady questions about their country's future. Once again, 'Euro-philes' who desire to see Turkey enter the EU, and more significantly, move closer to international norms of human rights and democratic governance, will face off against 'Euro-skeptics' who are less keen to see their country make the sacrifices to its sovereignty upon which EU membership is conditional. The 'Euro-skeptic' opposition will be intent to defeat any reform they see as undermining Turkish sovereignty—e.g., that they see as weakening the state's authority in dealing with the country's ethnic and religious minorities (cultural rights/rights for religious minorities); that would roll back the speech codes prosecutors continue to wield against individuals critical of the state; and that would diminish the power of the military, and just as relevantly, the judiciary, bastions of the old elite anathema to those who think of popular sovereignty as the operative principle of democracy and see its expansion as key to democratic devolopment. Many Turks fall somewhere in the middle of these two Euroskepticism and Europhilia, and the poles themselves are far from being rigidly diametric.

The battle to take place is historical. The lure of membership in the EU can be explained by the promise of tremendous economic opportunities for Turkey (and for Europe), but it also has much to do with Turkey's historic aim to orient itself westward and the recognition of calls for major political reform being made by a burgeoning number of citizens. EU accession is a dynamic process in that it means aspiring member countries must not only adopt EU political norms, but in doing so, undergo political transformation akin to that which has brought about EU norms to begin with. While the Europe to which Atatürk turned was the imperial Europe of old, Europe has since much changed. Amidst the wreckage of World War II, Europe radically transformed itself into the post-national union that it is mythologized as today, and over a course of events particular to its own history, developed an overwhelming commitment to participatory democratic institutions and what is largely respected as the strongest human rights regime in modern history. Although, as Tony Judt argues, Europe is just now beginning to reconcile its present position with its pre-war history, it is very much the continent's post-war commitment to a rebirth founded on new values that most defines European identity today.

When Turgut Özal's applied for membership in 1987, Turks began negotiations with a Europe that was drastically different than it had been in 1923. Turkey had not digressed from the Europe Atatürk embraced in 1923; rather, Europe had moved on. As many Turks attempt to struggle more or less to catch up, or better put, generate a 're-birth' of their own, Turkey's relationship with the European Union raises critical questions about the international dimensions of political development. Driven by its new found attachment to democracy and human rights, and its determination to articulate both values in its international policy, particularly in its policy toward aspiring member states, Europe is pressing Turkey to improve its record on both counts. While Turkey's old political vision in many ways explains its contemporary political norms, the current state of Turkish governance will simply not suffice for entry; therefore, a new vision must be realized. As Turks struggle to grapple with the question as to what future path the country will forge for itself, Europeans who are keen to see Turkey a member state and/or who would like to see it politically develop along similar lines struggle to find the most effective diplomatic approach to suit their ends. For those Turks who have already decided that Europe is the path forward, their struggle is to find the best means at their disposal by which to realize international standards of human rights and good governance.


Much of the division surrounding European membership stems from competing visions as to how define modernity, best understood as the project in which Atatürk propelled the country upon its independence. Is EU membership the ultimate realization of Atatürk's embrace of European values or is membership in the new Europe a threat to the Kemalist foundation of Turkish state-society relations, undermining order and breeding so much chaos that the demise of the Turkish state could become a real possibility? Is Turkey ready and/or able to embrace modern European norms of universal human rights, decentralized governance, and pluralist democracy in which social differences are to be respected rather than feared as imperiling national solidarity?

Although the so-called 'Euro-philes' envision EU entry as a means to a more prosperous and free Turkey, the 'Euro-skeptics' question what are sometimes referred to as the 'post-modern' values that Europe has embraced since the end of World War II (for such a denunciation of 'post-modernism,' see the recent comments of new Commander of Land Forces, Gen. Işık Koşaner). Despite the Euro-skeptics fond endorsement of Enlightenment rationalism, they are leery of the supranationalism inherent in the European Union project and not comfortable with pluralist democracy and its concomitant values of multiculturalism, decentralized authority, freedom of expression, and government free from military influence. Comfortable in their minds' rarely questioned confidence in the inviolability of the nation-state, the idea of plurinational democracy seems little more than a pipe dream—an ivory-towerism, if not a Trojan horse delivered with imperial designs of destroying Turkey from the inside out. In marked contrast, Euro-philia is driven by a desire for change, a yearning to see Turkey pursue reform for its own benefit and the economic benefits concomitant with EU convergence. In contrast to Euro-skeptics, Euro-philes argue that while EU membership is the ideal end of Turkey's accession project, efforts to meet European demands by passing meaningful reform in and of themselves provide ample reason to justify the project. Avowed Euro-philes are a diverse grouping and consist of businessman intent to break into European markets, military officials who interpret membership as the realization of Atatürk's Westernizing ambitions, minorities who see EU government structures as a means by which to check their rights against the Turkish nation-state, and perhaps most surprisingly, some moderate Islamists who have come to believe in democratic pluralism and civil liberties as instrumental to their mission of seeking religious liberties and political participation traditionally denied by the Turkish state (for analysis of the latter, see April 13 post).

To understand this division, one must first understand something very basic about the construction of the Turkish nation-state out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. When Turkey was founded as an independent state, Atatürk embraced the European ideals of the age in a way that no Ottoman sultan had ever imagined and at his death in 1938, Anatolia looked and felt drastically different than it had at Turkey's founding in 1923. Indeed, Atatürk not only embraced European values, but emulated them. Modelling the new Turkic republic on the European states of the day, the "Immortal Leader" adopted European legal codes and replaced Ottoman institutions to resemble those of Europe. Central to this nation-building project was Atatürk's wholesale adoption of the same European-style nationalisms that were reshaping Europe. As David Fromkin sadly narrates in A Peace to End All Peace, Turkey was not alone in this endeavor, but was undoubtedly the most successful. Unlike other nation-states carved out of the former Ottoman Empire, the Turkish nation-state was not designed by Europeans, but by Atatürk. Building atop the nationalist ideology of the Young Turks who preceded him, Atatürk carved Turkey out along the same nationalist lines that had come to shape those communities in the Americas and Europe to which Benedict Anderson has referred as "imagined." As one of the first nationalist movements organized against imperialist power, Atatürk brought together the peoples of Anatolia as Turks, romanized the Turkish language, worked to establish nationalist narratives of a shared tribal past, and sought diligently to "Turkify" the Ottoman institutions that had previously governed the Anatolian heartland. An ardent admirer of the French Revolution, Atatürk assembled Turkish nationalism along French lines, an educated, noble project built in the name of modernity, progress, and Enlightenment rationalism. Indeed, many of Turkey's liberals have come to denigrate the Turkish nationalist project as "Jacobin," inferring that just as the French Revolution reached particularly troubling and misguided excesses, so do some similarly self-avowed Turkish nationalists.

The nation-state pervaded what was both a project for state and society and came to define Kemalism, a loose-based ideology prescribing the political order that is still very much descriptive of contemporary relations between the Turkish state and society. Kemalism was defined in 1931 by CHP, the country's only political party in operation at the time. If one was (is?) a Kemalist, one swore adherence to what CHP considered to be the six principles of the state's existence: secularism (bearing close resemblance to French laicism), nationalism (very much influenced by European conceptions of flag and country), republicanism (in the sense that the Jacobins rejected French monarchy only to install institutions that would hardly be considered democratic by contemporary definitions), populism (very much resonant in European discourse following the First World War as it placed the interests of the nation over those of class politics, feared in Europe as Bolshevik), revolutionism (Orwellian insomuch as this meant specific support of the Kemalist status quo), and statism (recognizing the dominance of the state in the economic realm along similar lines and thought of in relation to European étatisme). The endurance of Kemalism is evidenced by CHP's continued symbolic use of the six arrows (alti ok)in its party emblem. These principles were incorporated into the Turkish constitution in 1937 and continue to be the foundation of Turkish governance. (Here, it is important to note that CHP has undergone an evolution of its own—see Feb. 12 post, "Where Have All the Leftists Gone?).

However, while Turkey has held true to the inventions of old nationalisms, Europe has not. The modernity of the Jacobins has long since been surpassed by a new understanding of the modern. This new conception of modernity is no longer in harmony with the dogmas of Kemalism directing the Euro-skeptics. For the Euro-skeptics, these dogmas center around the paradigm of the Turkish nation-state and its inviolability. Their principal concern is survival of the Turkish nation-state, and believing it to be under attack by external and internal enemies, their politics is dominated by fear of the slightest conceptual retrenchment of the status quo and their arguments of the slippery-slope variety. For Euro-skeptics, as Turkey exists in a difficult neighborhood, national security is a prime concern. Even if Turkey did want to embrace Europe's post-modern values, it is not able to due to this challenging geography and the indigenous threats to its Enlightenment identity, namely political Islam and Kurdish separatism. The skeptics declare Turkey to be especially exceptional in these regards, and this logic is sometimes not easy to dismiss. While a post-modern conception of identity is certainly more accommodating of difference than a nationalist conception, would Western European nations have proved so accommodating if their social composition had resembled Turkey's in terms of religious and ethnic heterogeneity, and the sheer division of these fractures due to the traditional modes of life extant throughout so much of the country? Further, would Belgium or the Netherlands have developed so firm a commitment to pluralist democracy and human rights had they shared Turkey's physical geography?

For the Euro-skeptics for whom Turkey's security is paramount, EU reforms jeopardize the state's ability to protect itself from a unique set of threats. Some of these critics do not object to the idea of membership in and of itself, but argue that Turkey must be considered an exceptional case, and therefore, warrant different treatment. Other Euro-skeptics believe that Turkish entrance into Europe is a threat to Turkish cultural identity, a dilution of the cohesive Turkish nationalism that has seen the Turkish Republic through its many trials. The majority of Euro-skeptics hold that Turkey will be better on its own, and that though reform should not be dismissed, the Turkish nation-state should not be sacrificed to meet the demands of EU bureaucrats with little understanding of Turkey's historical, political, and cultural circumstances. An added dimension to Euro-skepticism is that membership in Europe indubitably means change for Turkey's ruling political class, and in many respects, this change means surrendering power to individuals, groups, and ideas that have historically been kept out of the state's Enlightenment-guided elite (for a class analysis, see June 8 post, "The Politics of Underwear").

In contrast, primary among the advocates for EU membership are democrats and liberal human rights advocates who have long criticized the more authoritarian aspects of the Turkish state. These individuals would like to see a stronger civil society develop in Turkey and a diminished role for the military within the Turkish state structure. Democrats call for a state that is controlled by the elected government and responsive to popular will. They argue that they are tired of military intervention in civilian affairs, and many favor adoption of a new constitution to replace the current one adopted under military tutelage in 1982. In turn, liberal human rights activists seek a greater expansion of freedom from state intrusion. These activists have long sought to abolish state restrictions on freedom of expression and association, and many support bringing an end to state torture, excessive police force and impunity, and the unfair trials engendered by Turkey's juridical policies. Many human rights activists also seek an end to the state's virtual non-recognition to the cultural rights of Kurds in the southeast and desire a Turkish southeast in which Kurds are able to speak, read, write, and broadcast in their own language. In advocating for EU membership, liberal human rights activists seek a state more restricted in the actions it takes against individuals while democrats aspire to realize a more viable public sphere in which public opinion might be better developed and articulated to a more responsive government. While by no means monolithic, cumulatively, the demands and activities of the Euro-philes are very radical when compared to the status quo, and the realization of the reforms upon which EU membership is conditional promises a dramatic transformation from the strong unitary state created by Atatürk in the 1920s.


Central to Turkey's political ambitions to join the European Union is the question as to whether Turkey can ever truly be European. Undeniably, Turkey is a unique country with a unique history that in many ways diverges with that of EU states, especially those of Western Europe. For one, Turkey is an Islamic country and as a result, has a culture that is in many ways rooted in Islamic identity. Further, Turkish cultural identity is very strong and is explained by a confluence of factors only part of which are relevant to European history. This said, as the EU has expanded eastward and as Europe has become more diverse thanks to growing immigrant populations, the concept of Europe has also broadened. With Kosovo now independent, the EU is eventually likely to be dealing with applications from two states with predominant Muslim majorities. As more attention is paid to how a 'post-national'—or perhaps better put, plurinational Europe—is capable of bringing peace and respect for human rights regardless of ethnicity and religion, even more attention is likely to be paid to the complex cultural confluences of Europe's eastern edges. This, in turn, should reinforce the concept of European identity as indeed quite porous and multicultural. (For an excellent work on plurinational democracy, see Michael Keating, Plurinational Democracy: Stateless Nations in a Post-Sovereignty Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).)

Turks have long-held ties to Europe that date to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. In this regard, it should be remembered that the Ottoman Empire existed at a crossroads of civilizations, thereby assimilating what many might consider to be "European values" of the Byzantines. As Ottoman conquest expanded into the Balkans, so did its assimilation of more "Western" identities, and so were its new Balkan subjects influenced by "Eastern" identities. Indeed, the ancestry of many Turkish families can be traced to the Ottoman Balkans where Christian and Muslim subjects co-existed under an Ottoman ethic of religious tolerance, by way of which it was not uncommon at all for "European" Christians to rise to high office and move fairly fluidly through the upper echelons of Ottoman society. Although such toleration and multiculturalism seems quite confounding to the modern mind, it should be realized that it was not at all strange to the Ottomans and is so now only as a result of the rise of the nation-state. Indeed, it was the ideological construction of nationalism that brought political structures like the Ottoman Empire crashing down. Nationalism was a challenge to the Ottoman regime of toleration and relegated the Empire to play "the sick man of Europe" up until its ultimate collapse at the end of World War I. It is bitterly ironic that the Empire's demise can also be attributed to what historically is a European illness.

Although Christian and ethnic minorities resided in peace for much of the empire's history, Ottoman war on Europe made the empire despised by Christian Europeans, the word "Turk" connoting a sense of the ruthless exoticism that cultivated an image of the Muslim-Turkish Ottoman Empire as being very much other than Christian Europe. Nonetheless, the Ottoman Empire was a full and powerful player on the European diplomatic circuit. When France went to war with the Hapsburgs, they elicited Ottoman support against their fellow Christian enemy by allying themselves with the Muslim Ottomans. In the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was included in the Concert of Europe, duly recognized as an important European power after its alliance with the British during the Crimean War.

Unlike Africa and much of Asia, Turkey escaped the dysfunctions wrought by European imperialism; it was not until the Treaty of Sèvres that Turks became subject to European designs, and it is no surprise that these new imperial bonds were soon cast off. Despite its ambivalence, the Ottoman Empire was by no means ignorant of European development, and throughout the nineteenth-century, sultans attempted major European-inspired reform in efforts to preserve the empire's territorial integrity and stem the ill-effects of the many nationalisms spilling into its borders. Commencing in 1839 under Sultan Abdülmecit, the Tanzimat reform period aspired to develop Ottoman political structures along more European lines.

Although Atatürk's emulation of Europe did not exist without important antecedents, when Turkey won independence in 1923, the shift toward Europe was radical, yet never pursued under the yoke of imperialism. In admiring manner, Atatürk adopted Turkey's civil code from the Swiss Civil Code of 1926, making only minor modificiations. The penal code was adopted from the 1899 Italian Penal Code, and the fledgling country's criminal procedural and commercial codes were adopted from Germany. While the civil and penal codes have been overhauled in the past ten years as fruits of previous national programs, few amendments had been made previously.

Atatürk's European proclivities went beyond government: in fashion, he replaced the fez for a European-style cap while going so far as to adopt European tastes in food and alcohol consumption. Perhaps most significant, the old Arabic script in which Ottoman was written was replaced by a new Roman script in which Turkish would be written. What some have referred to as Turkey's "European vocation" began at statehood, and it was Atatürk who set the course of Turkish political development along westward lines. While it can be debated as to whether Atatürk would be in favor of meeting the conditions for EU membership, there is little doubt as to his great affinity for Europe and uncompromising desire to push Turkey toward the West.


Turkey's "European vocation" was formalized soon after the end of the Second World War. Although Turkey was careful to avoid allying itself during World War II, it soon took its place in the new world order by becoming a founding member of the Council of Europe in 1949 and became a member of the Marshall-funded Organization of European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) in 1952. Joining NATO shortly after in 1952, Turkey was part of the organization's Southern Command alongside Italy and Greece, and as such sent troops to the Korean War. Throughout the Cold War and in sharp contrast to Eastern Europe, Turkey remained a bulwark of the West and an important buffer between it and the Soviets (now often referred to as "the East.") When the European Economic Community (EEC) was formed by treaty in 1957, Turkey applied for associate membership. The Ankara Agreement was signed soon after in 1963, and Turkey has since regarded it as the foundation for its European Union bid. Acknowledging the agreement's promise to eventually grant Turkey full membership (Article 28), President Ismet İnönü characterized Turkey's signature as a decision between "East" and "West." After Ankara, diplomatic and trade relations between Turkey and Europe flourished as Turkey began to move further away from a close alliance with its other Western ally, the United States.

In 1970, an additional protocol establishing a 22-year transitional period to result in the conclusion of a customs union further solidified the drive for membership ignited by the Ankara Agreement. Trade between Turkey and Europe grew at this time as Turkey continued the process of rapid industrialization on which it had embarked in the 1950s. As it became evident that Turkey's economy was quickly strengthening, the EC approached Turkey in 1975 and solicited its application following Greece's application the same year. Distracted by a fragile political coalition and internal political strife, Ecevit rejected the offer. This move was characteristic of Turkey's problems throughout the 1970s as the country began to lose its Western trajectory. Haunted by identity crises and long-repressed political differences, Turkey began to lose its firm sense of direction and instead became dominated by the various pushes and pulls of the factional politics that had emerged in its still relatively new experiment with multi-party democracy.

The ultimate blow to Turkey's aspirations to join Europe came in 1980 with the violent political coup from which it is still very much recovering. Struggling with an intense set of domestic circumstances, Turkey's attention to EU relations had gone by the wayside in the 1970s, but 1980 made Europe an almost non-issue. However, still attentive to Turkey, Europe issued sharp criticism of the military dictatorship of Kenan Evren who seized control after the coup and joined human rights activists in protesting the state's abuses of political and human rights norms. This criticism is significant in that it marks European politicians' new interest in promoting political norms that had become deeply entrenched in European policy by the time of the coup. Europe-Turkey relations were further complicated by Greece's membership in 1981. Following Turkey's military invasion of Cyprus in 1974, diplomatic relations between the two countries became particularly hostile. Greece used its EC membership to block EC development monies from making their way to Turkey and consistently opposed associations that might bring Europe and Turkey closer together. Further, already disgruntled by the coup and seeming Turkish recalcitrance toward any agreement that might solve the division of the island's Greek and Turkish communities, the Greeks' arguments fell on ready ears.

Although Turkey largely ignored criticism during the dictatorship, Europe soon became more relevant during its post-coup recovery as the democratically-elected government began again to assert its dominance under the leadership of Turgut Özal. When Özal applied for membership in 1987, the European Community issued an answer in 1989 that though stating Turkey was not ready for membership at the immediate moment, it might well be in the future. The answer contrasted sharply to that issued in response to Morocco's 1987 application, which the Community flatly rejected on the grounds that Morocco was not a European country. By implication, the EC recognized that, yes, after all, Turkey was part of Europe and thereby reaffirmed the earlier promise it made under Article 28 of the Ankara Agreement.

To prove the government was serious about membership in the EC, Özal led Turkey to assent to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The move was a watershed in that it allowed Turkish citizens to take human rights complaints to the ECHR and required the Turkish state to provide remedies in line with the ECHR's judgements. Although the Court's decisions are still not fully enforcable, Turkey's increased participation in the ECHR is a positive development in the protection of human rights. In 2004, Turkey recognized remedies handed down by the ECHR, and in another positive development in March 2002, the Constitutional Court recognized ECHR case law as a legitimate source on which Turkish courts could base their decisions. At the end of 2007, Turkey had more than 9,000 cases pending before the ECHR.

Özal also moved to increase Turkey's participation in UN, NATO, and European security policy. From 1988 onward, Turkish military officers participated in UN peacekeeping missions in places as varied as East Timor, Somalia, and the West Bank. Most notable of these peacekeeping missions was Turkey's role in Bosnia in 1992. Current peacekeeping missions include the large role Turkey plays in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and a lead role in Kosovo. Turkey's contribution to security missions has proved it to have much in common with the EU's evolving Common Foreign and Security Policy. Turkey gained particular respect in Europe when it denied the United States use of its borders to stage a military invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although injuring relations with the United States, the move was valuable in garnering additional European support insomuch as it evidenced that Turkey was not merely a satellite of United States security policy and had a voice of its own—perhaps most importantly, a voice with which most Europeans agreed.

Despite Özal's positive steps and Turkey returning its attention to securing the customs union it had been promised in the 1970s, relations with Europe were once again complicated as PKK-provoked unrest in the southeast increased. PKK violence led to a strong Turkish military response that at times was quite disproportionate and sometimes targeted Kurdish civilians rather than the PKK terrorists. As a result, Europe became quite disconcerted by the numerous human rights abuses being documented by human rights watch groups and this anxiety prompted considerable reluctance on the part of many European politicians to make closer ties with Turkey. This sentiment was most evident in the human rights-conscious European Parliament, which, especially post-Maastricht, soon began a new series of criticisms regarding the Turkish state's harsh tactics. The state was further rebuked in Europe for documented cases of torture, detention, and wrongful death suffered by Kurdish civilians at the hands of military and police personnel, as well as the particularly egregious abuses conducted by the paramilitary gangs with which the state had begun to work following Özal's death. The breakdown of Turkish government in the southeast was further manifest in the state's persecution of Kurdish political parties, which, of course, only deepened support for the PKK and the cause of Kurdish separatism, while rendering it virtually impossible for moderate Kurdish politicans to emerge (see Feb. 4 post).

Despite all the criticism, and over strong objections from some EU parliamentarians, the Customs Union was signed and came into force in Janaury 1996. Not to dismiss the level of concern about the deteriorating situation in the southeast, European monitors were sent to evaluate human rights practices in acquiescence to the parliamentarians' human rights objections to the Union. To further demonstrate the friction in Europe-Turkey relations caused by the war in the southeast, in October of the same year, the EU blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in development assistance. European interference in the state's war against the PKK-led insurgency led to hard feelings that reached their apex at the Luxembourg summit in December 1997.

At Luxembourg, the European Council agreed to commence accession talks with eleven central and eastern European countries, most infuriatingly Cyprus, while Turkey was recognized as no more than eligible for membership. To add to Turkey's furor, the acceding states were also given accession agreements whereby they would receive funds and other means of support to bolster their eventual convergence with the EU. Turkish politicians read the summit as an affront and responded by cutting off diplomatic relations with Europe. The rhetoric that encompassed the affair was even more damaging as Turkish nationalist politicians began to make claims that Europe had neo-imperial designs on Turkey and went so far as to launch personal insults at European politicians.

However, hope was restored as the political climate in Europe changed. Following Luxembourg, a confluence of factors began to emerge that bolstered the prospects of Turkish candidacy. Among these factors is the victory of Gerard Schröder over the Christian Democrats in Germany and the strong opinion of Tony Blair that Luxembourg had been a mistake. Perhaps most pivotally, Greece's attitude toward Turkish membership had also changed. Committed to a rapprochement of Greek-Turkish relations. Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis saw Turkey's membership bid as a means to assert increased leverage over Turkey in regard to Cyprus. Following the 1999 earthquakes in İzmit and Athens, after which Greeks and Turks came to each others' mutual aid, Greek and Turkish nationalist fervor dwindled as both populations began to express antipathy toward the slow reactions of their governments. Combined with Greek disillusion with nationalist hardliners when Greeks discovered their country had been secretly protecting PKK leader Abdullah Öclan, Greece fell in line with Simitis' calls for rapprochement with Turkey, the main thrust of which was support for Turkish membership in the EU. Bülent Ecevit's role should also be credited insomuch as he made significant gestures to Schröder that Turkey was ready to begin relations with Europe anew.

At Helsinki in December 1999, Turkey was officially granted candidate status on the condition that it met the Copenhagen criteria for membership, the same criteria every EU candidate had to meet. Although some Turkish politicians argued that Turkey should be granted special exceptions due to its circumstances, most enthusiastically embraced the offer. The Helsinki gesture changed the dynamic of EU-Turkish relations and raised prospects that the dream of EU membership might become a reality. The mood was euphoric as polls charting favorable attitudes toward Europe skyrocketed. Out of all the posturing that had come before, a new consensus emerged that Turkey should begin to consider EU negotiations anew. However, despite Turkish ebullience, enthusiasm was somewhat short-sighted in that Turks again began to debate just how far Turkey should be made to reform in order to come into compliance with the Copenhagen political and economic criteria.


The promise of EU accession acted as a catalysis for the reform that Turkey witnessed from 2001 up until accession talks began in 2005. The progressive spirit that was attached to these years can be attributed as driven by relations between Turkey and the European Union. For Turkey, what has been referred to as the reform revolution meant the beginning of a transformation that promised to move Turkey away from the closeted authoritarianism, under the auspices of which the country has long been troubled. What is more, for the first time there was a viable coalition of forces at play, an amalgam of reformers who had finally come together to make way for real and meaningul change. For Europe, Turkey's transformation signaled a demonstrable use of its soft power to further democratize a neighboring country.

The reforms in need of adoption in order to meet the Copenhagen political criteria were outlined in the Accession Partnership Document (APD) the EU gave Turkey in November 2000. Areas in need of reform included, among other things, a re-working of Turkey's civil and penal codes; measures to provide for the equal treatment of men and women; the abolition of the death penalty, meaning assent to Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; an end to the state practice of torture and reform related to detainees and prisoners; the expansion of cultural rights, especially in regard to Kurds; greater protections for freedom of expression and the press; an expansion of freedom for associations; and the curtailment of military power, in particular an institutional re-working of the National Security Council (NSC).

Reform did not start at rapid pace. In response to the APD, the Turkish government was required to submit its National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA). This is the basic negotiating framework of the accession partnership. Although drafting of the NPAA had not been difficult for other candidate states, the Turkish NPAA proved especially challenging given Turkey's deep political divides and as a result it was not submitted to the EU until March 2001. Further, the NPAA was not reassuring to EU policymakers in that it failed to mention endeavors the government planned to take regarding abolition of Protocol 6, rights to broadcast in Kurdish, and the curtailment of military influence. Instead, it aggressively asserted that Turkey would consider lifting the death penalty in the medium term and that Turkish was the country's official mother tongue. However, with time, a consensus started to shape that resulted in the first large-scale reform package Turkey had passed since the 1980 coup. In October 2001, 33 articles of the Turkish constitution were amended, including its preamble. The opening of Turkey's constitution that once began with a prohibition of "thoughts and opinions" that ran contrary to the national interest was reformed to cover only "actions." Additionally, amendments were reformed to expand privacy, provide for better trials, declare the equality between men and women in marraige, grant new rights to prisoners and detainees, and allow for use of the Kurdish language outside the home. In November, the Civil Code was re-worked to provide new rights for associations, expanded rights of women in marraige, and provided a framework for children's rights.

These reforms were applauded by the European Commission's 2001 progress report and were followed up in 2002 by three reform packages to be passed in February, March, and August. The August 2002 package was the most impressive and included an allowance for broadcasting and education in languages other than Turkish, required that courts issue re-trials in accordance with judgements issued by the ECHR, granted more rights to non-Muslim minorities, more closely regulated police, and initiated piecemeal reform of its judicial and prison systems. Most surprisingly, the death penalty was aboloshed in peacetime. The elimination of the death penalty was quite controversial given that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had been sentenced to death in 1999 and that the only impediment to his execution was a stay that had been issued by the ECHR that Ecevit had respected in light of EU negotiations. Also significant in 2002, Turkey lifted emergency rule in the last two southeastern provinces. Emergency rule had put the largely Kurdish population of provinces in the southeast under a different rule of law and had been largely criticized by EU politicians prior to Helsinki. At the 2002 summit in Copenhagen, the European Council granted Turkey pre-accession assistance funds and finally set a date for accession talks, agreeing that talks would begin in December 2004 upon recommendation of the European Commission.

Although reform had somewhat slowed down in 2002 as a result of MHP's defiance, efforts gained momentum when AKP came to power in November. Campaigning on a pro-EU agenda, AKP secured over a 2/3 majority in the TBMM that allowed it to overcome President Sezer's veto. Reform in 2003 came in four packages passed in January, February, July, and August and was largely geared to curtail torture, improve prison conditions, grant more cultural rights to Kurds, and lift some restrictions on freedom of expression. Important among these reforms was the adoption of a zero tolerance policy toward torture (although far from implemented), and a monumental reform designed to dramatically redefine the powers of the NSC as an advisory body to the government. By the end of 2003, Turkey had far surpassed the meager promises it made in its initial NPAA. An important mark of the change was also reflected in that the new EU-issued APD of March 2003 was met with much less resistance and the July 2003 NPAA response was quite well-received, and much more in harmony with EU demands than the March 2001 NPAA. The tone of the EU Commission's 2002 progress report, documenting developments up to Sept. 30, 2003, was quite positive and cited the progress that had been made in dealing with many of Turkey's political problems as substantial in light of their sensitivity.

Reforms continued unabated in 2004 as the second national program was enacted. Significantly, one of the key priorities of the second NPAA was a wholesale revision of the Penal Code. The adoption of the new Penal Code was a particular success in that it was passed with the input of various women's groups. AKP's first draft was found too patriarchal for many women and their demands led the government to re-draft the legislation, which, in turn, resulted in a Penal Code that met with the agreement of a coalition of AKP and Kemalist politicians (see July 9 post and ). Reform also included ratification of Protocols 6 and 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey's assent to which meant it would not apply the death penalty in war or peacetime.

Additionally, although plenty of restrictive laws remained on the books that limited participation in civil society and freedom of expression, the International Crisis Group's 2007 report noted that
"EU figures show a steady decline between 2001 and 2006 in associations or centres closed down (from 145 to six), such places raided by police (216 to 48), publications seized or banned (341 to 21) and freedom of expression cases (3,473 put on trial to 1,013). The courts still treated prosecuted torturers lightly but more governmental and media attention seemed to produce better security force behaviour."
The culmination of less than three years of reform led to a momentous decision by the European Commission in October 2004 to endorse accession talks, thereby concluding that Turkey had sufficiently met the Copenhagen political criteria. However, the Commission's recommendation also warned that accession talks could be suspended in the event of persistent violation of the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Come the European Council summit in December, Turkey was finally given a date on which it would begin accession talks in line with the European Commission's recommendation—3 October 2005.

Worthy of note is the EU's critical role in implementing reform. Although implementation of much of the reform has in some ways been lacking, continued EU monitoring and diplomatic pressure has had an important effect. Most significant in this regard are the reforms passed in regard to Kurdish "cultural rights," reforms that are expanding the space in which Kurds can hold educational courses in their own language, give their children Kurdish names, and hold cultural events such as concerts and other public gatherings. Oftentimes, local police and courts act in contradiction with the new law, but when challenged in higher courts, they are overruled and ordered to enforce the new law. Such examples demonstrate that EU support and monitoring on the implementation end is critical, as is committed support from Ankara to ensure that local authorities enforce new and unpopular law. They also demonstrate that thanks to EU backing and support, Turkish authorities are empowered to force implementation over the resistance of what is often very significant opposition (see June 14 post, "Kurds Don't Have Tails: Why I Went to Diyarbakır") .

Click here for Part II.

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