Saturday, October 11, 2008

AKP Contemplates EU Negotiator Position

A special column in TDZ by Mehment Kalyoncu:
As Parliament begins its new legislative year, the AK Party leadership is preparing to undertake a major reshuffling of the Cabinet. In addition to its relatively successful foreign policy and sustained economic growth for several years in a row, the AK Party leadership proved successful in reshuffling the Cabinet at the start of its second term in office, reducing the number of former Islamist Welfare Party (RP) members in it and replacing them with social democrats. These days, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is preparing to do the same with one difference: He is planning to appoint a “chief EU negotiator.”

Certainly one of the critical decisions the prime minister has to make is choosing who is to lead Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union. The position has so far been held by Foreign Minister Babacan because acquiring EU membership has long been the main pillar of Turkish foreign policy. However, lately, probably as a result Turkey’s increased involvement in regional and international affairs, it appears the government believes that the responsibility for EU negotiations should be taken off the foreign minister’s shoulders to ease his burden.

Some would argue that creating a separate “chief EU negotiator” position is just a cunning attempt to train a potential contender to the AK Party leadership. In a way, Erdoğan by himself will bring about his and his government’s own end, depending on who is chosen to be the prospective chief. After all, given the importance Turkish foreign policy attaches to full EU membership and the public’s increasing involvement in debates regarding the EU accession process, there is no doubt that the prospective chief EU negotiator will be one of the most popular political figures and a person who will make headlines every day. He may well be the most popular person -- depending on the dominant media groups’ tendency to promote him as a potential contender to Erdoğan’s political leadership either within or without the AK Party. As such, depending on who he is, the prospective chief EU negotiator may well be manipulated to clash with the prime minister as his popularity grows. It goes without saying that a political figure that clashes with the prime minister would certainly fail, if not purposefully resist, to work with the country’s foreign minister and seek to exclude the latter by all means from deliberations and decisions regarding Turkey’s EU accession.
For the full article, click here. For an understanding of/need for the position, click here. See also Aug. 2 post.

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