Only a few hours President Tayyip Erdoğan delivers his speech for the opening of the legislative year of parliament on Oct. 1, the European Union (EU) leaders will start a meeting with Turkey on their agenda. Therefore, EU leaders will talk on Turkey with Erdoğan’s fresh messages in addition to the letters they received from him on Sept. 30 in mind. The EU summit starts at noon. But according to a letter that European Council President Charles Michel sent to the leaders of member countries on Sept. 29, the issue of Turkey will be talked at dinner, which metaphorically means Turkey will be “on the table.” The picture that will emerge today may show a widening gap between the agendas of Turkey and the EU.
Achieving economic recovery while fighting the Covid-19 outbreak tops the EU agenda. The EU-China relation is seen as another important topic. The ongoing Belarus crisis, the poisoning of Russian dissident Aleksey Naval and the Azerbaijan-Armenian crisis will also be talked before it is Turkey’s turn in the evening.
In the Turkey chapter of his report to the EU leaders, Michelin says:
“The dinner will be entirely devoted to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and our relations with Turkey. Our objective is to create a space for a constructive dialogue with Turkey to achieve stability and security in the whole region, and to ensure full respect for the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all EU Member States. This will only be possible if Turkey engages constructively. All options remain on the table to defend the legitimate interests of the EU and its Member States.”
Brussels tells Ankara that if it does not respect the sovereign rights of Greece and Geek Cyprus, the bloc will defend its legitimate interests. Since the EU will not go to war against Turkey, it should be pointing to economic and political sanctions.
Expecting the EU to be fair
The EU links the future of its relations with Turkey to having it stop energy resource search in the Eastern Mediterranean and recognize the sovereignty of Greece and Greek Cyprus, but is Turkey doing something different?
Let’s quote Erdoğan’s Sept. 30 letter to the EU leaders, which reduces the relations with the bloc to Turkey’s dispute with Greece.
“I wish that the EU supports these thoughts of ours, drops the partial position that it has taken up against a candidate country, Turkey. (…) What Turkey expects from the EU is to remain impartial, to maintain an equal distance from everyone, as well as to promote dialogue and cooperation.”
So the Turkish diplomacy, which roots back to centuries ago, has come to a point that asks the EU to be fair to Turkey against Greece and Greek Cyprus, as if it is not known that the EU decisions are made unanimously –including the votes of Greece and Greek Cyprus.
The outcome from this might be either that the Eastern Mediterranean issue will be downplayed with the help of taking other issues to the public agenda, the international relations will no longer be taken to agenda, or de facto situations will emerge – maybe unlike what happened on Cyprus in 1974 but similarly powerful. We will see.
What does parliament’s agenda say?
The recovery of the economy in the Covid environment should also be Turkey’s supposed first item on the agenda. However, the “third new” plan Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak announced in two year did not trigger a widespread reaction, let’s leave netting support aside. It was disappointing enough that the minister, whose leading goals include protecting the value of the Turkish Lira, said he was not interested in the rise of the foreign currencies against the local money, a trend that he yet could not stop. The latest statement of Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who said official daily figures reflected only the number of patients, not the cases of Covid-19 positive, has lead to the perception that the fight against the virus spread is left to slide.
So, what will parliament do under such conditions? Are there steps on the agenda regarding cutting the cost of living and unemployment, improving investments and freedom of speech atmosphere that is getting more restrictive, or do the considered steps aim at consolidating the government? Looking at the proposals from the ruling bloc, one can see that steps to meet the government’s need for uniform politics are considered.
MHP influence in the domestic politics
At a time when Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ranks came to a level of supporting the restoring death penalty, an idea by Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the AKP’s election partner Nationalist Movement Party, Bahçeli also asked for amending the Constitutional Court “in a manner that is in harmony with the nature of the Presidential Government System.” This should be because the recent decisions of the Court were “problematic and crippled.” He was probably talking about the Court decisions in favor of protecting freedoms.
We understand that another priority of the AKP-MHP bloc is the preparation of an electoral law that will ensure that they will never face the local election defeat shock in 2019 again. In other words, contrary to the pessimist question raised by some circles on “whether any elections will be held at all”, the bloc is after an electoral system that will guarantee their win.
Parliament, more precisely, the AKP and MHP MPs, are set to approve steps that will reduce the role and powers of themselves and parliament, increasing the role of the president in the legislature and judiciary.
And this agenda is imposed under conditions that the social media law, which took effect as of Oct. 1, further restricts the field of freedom of expression and press. The gap between the agendas of Turkey and the EU is really widening; this is not a good thing.