Friday, April 16, 2010

The Stalwart Returns to Brussels

CHP leader Deniz Baykal made the rounds in Brussels this week, meeting with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, a delegation of the Friends of Turkey in the European Parliament and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. European parliamentarians, especially from the left, have long been critical of the CHP, questioning its social democratic credentials and nationalist discourse (see Feb. 11, 2009 post). The Socialist International (SI), of which the CHP is a member, has been particularly vocal in its criticisms (see July 25 post). During the meetings, Baykal was again asked to justify past positions of his party, and according to Today's Zaman, questioned the legitimacy of the Ergenekon investigation by pointing to Gareth Jenkins' report from last year. Today's Zaman is not without its own angle, but the paper's reportage of some of these European criticisms gives a glimpse into the discomfort and frustration felt by some European politicians toward the CHP. According to the paper, Greek Socialist MEP and European Parliament Vice-President Stavros Lambrinidis' questioning of Baykal was particularly pointed while MEP Emine Bozkurt asked Baykal what the party planned to do to repair its bad reputation in Europe. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats released a statement emphasizing the need for an end to military interventions in politics. Today's Zaman quotes from the statement: “The army cannot protect the secular state and democracy. Any involvement of the Turkish army in political life is unacceptable and counterproductive. This message must be clearly understood by everyone in Turkey."

Yet, as in Turkey, there is considered skepticism about the AKP's tactical maneuvering when it comes to the constitutional reform process.
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats leader Schulz was more respectful in a press conference he held with Baykal. Asked about the partial constitutional amendment, Schulz, accompanied by Baykal and Öymen, said there were elements in the package which he thought would bring Turkey closer to the EU but noted at the same time that he was concerned about the possibility of some tactical elements in the reform package. Schulz also made it clear that he did not favor the idea of putting all the elements in one package, implying that it would be better if certain proposed amendments were considered separately.

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