As the only unchallenged superpower the USA has got certain advantages and privileges. Unsolicited public criticism of human rights violations of select countries, like Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia is just one.
Double standards and double speaks are the hallmark of US policy for decades. On the one hand, USA supports turkey’s EU ambition as a legitimate and genuine European state; on the other it also supports those EU member states blocking Istanbul’s effort at EU. The fragile nature of US policy for Turkey, among other reasons, complicates the efforts of Turkey to become a legitimate EU member.
Criticizing Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan etc has been a popular sport in Western capitals. It would appear that they will continue talking for some more time. Last week Turkey hosted the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul and the US State Department and the European Parliament published reports critical of Turkey’s democratic credentials and the state of the rule of law. Focusing on Turkey’s human rights record, the State Department picked up where President Obama left off at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC earlier this month to attack Turkey’s domestic policy, though both cooperate, collaborate and coordinate their military operations in Syria and elsewhere and Turkey NATO as its member does everything to please North Atlantic military organization.
Not only USA but also the EU never fails to make use of any new developments in Turkey to malign the former Ottoman Empire and block its legitimate entry into the fold. Meanwhile, the European Parliament also argued that Turkey is failing to meet the Copenhagen criteria, which candidate countries must fulfill to obtain European Union membership. As Turkey continues to crawl towards EU for its membership as a legitimate part of European continent, ET deliberately put new demands for Ankara to fulfill to be eligible to join the EU. The key issue seems to be the religion of Turkey which is Islam and all strenuous efforts by other European countries, now EU members, to undo Islamic system of the new Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have failed as Turks love Islam more than anti-Islamic politics of EU.
European Parliament makes it a point to make critical statements in every meeting it holds. So Ankara’s response was to ignore the EP report as they did last year, citing certain charges against Turkey that were included in the report under the pressure of interest groups. Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir said his country had no problem with criticism but objected to the following: De-listing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey and the EU currently consider a terrorist organization; suspending accession talks with Turkey and identifying the 1915 events as genocide. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party has been a thorn in Turkey’s side for decades. The group, which has Marxist-Leninist roots, was formed in the late 1970s and launched an armed struggle against the Turkish government in 1984, calling for an independent Kurdish state within Turkey.
Many EU members try to coerce Istanbul to move away from EU ambition and go closer to Mideastern Muslim nations. However, Turkey is a European nation and, geographically speaking, is not in Mideast. As a Muslim nation Turkey has stepped up its relations with Arab nations but that does not mean it is trying to reorient as a West Asian nation. In fact, when Turkey becomes an EU member officially, its ties with West Asia would also benefit the EU as well.
Meanwhile in Turkey, the domestic opposition has been accusing the government of moving away from the West and cozying up to Saudi Arabia’s ‘authoritarian’ government. To be clear, it is quite ironic that the same people who were calling the Justice and Development Party (AKP) names – “Western servants” and “Iran sympathizers” immediately come to mind – now claim that the government is in love with the Saudis. Blames are not new at all.
Today, the EU charges Turkey with moving away from the Copenhagen criteria with no regard for the political developments since 2013. EU reforms played a key role in the government’s effort to transform the Kemalist state. Maybe, the prospect of EU membership has traditionally had a positive influence on Turkish democracy but EU should not accelerate the trick further as any forced reform would not be effective or stay on.
What the most recent report ignores, however, is that the same government now must take necessary steps to address the challenges of Gezi Park protests, the Gülen Movement’s shadow state and PKK ‘terrorism’. At the end of the day, the country needs a well-oiled state machinery to protect democracy and therefore has no choice but to fix what the Gülenists did in key government agencies and PKK militants are doing across southeastern Turkey.
Turkey may not treat EU criticism as a priority until the state’s transformation is completed and the Syrian civil war is done. Keeping in mind that Western nations themselves failed in Syria, so-called counterterrorism, refugees etc but it has been successful in promoting Islamophobia as media policy , threatening Turkey with a big stick will only further aggravate domestic opposition and use the opposition to try to weaken the AKP government.
Inevitably, people have started asking as to why EU countries ignore extradition treaties with Turkey to shelter PKK ‘terrorists’ and reach the conclusion that the West is anti-Islamic and evil.
The main focus of USA and Europe, plus allies continues to be charges of Armenian genocide, to which Turkey must respond with rational policies able to cut through the noise.
However, it would be equally wrong to claim that Europe and the United States are deceptive, hypocritical and evil. The right move is to analyze developments with an eye on strategic necessities and national interests. Nowadays, the Obama administration targets Turkey mainly because the two countries have differences of opinion over Syria and the broader Middle East. The efforts of anti-Turkey interest groups, coupled with U.S. President Barack Obama’s personal dislike of Turkey’s policies, continue to strain bilateral relations.
Turkey must adopt a policy of critical integration with the West to find a middle ground between national interests and working with Europe. EU integration and promoting closer ties with the Islamic world and the Middle East are not different or mutually-exclusive options but two important projects that complement one another.
With regard to European criticism, it is important to maintain that Turkey’s membership bid is based on mutual interests alone and it won’t benefit Turkey in any big way as a few member states argue in privacy. Turkey’s membership is being delayed for certain reasons that have got nothing to do with Turkey. In 1999-2005, French and German leaders expedited the accession process to meet their strategic goals. Likewise, the process slowed down due to leadership changes in France and Germany as well as the EU’s internal crisis.
Turkey’s economy is in a strong position much better than most of EU member states. To be clear, therefore, all the talk about de-listing the PKK and charging Turkey with genocide would serve no purpose but to fuel anti-Westernism in a strategically-important EU candidate country.
Turkey’s entry into EU would not weaken EU but on the contrary strengthen its purpose, strength and efficiency.