ANKARA: Better To Keep Turkey Closer To Europe


Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
Jan 28 2014


The relations between France and Turkey had turned into a mess under
Nicholas Sarkozy. Replacing him, Francois Hollande has been the first
French President to officially visit Turkey after 22 years.

The visit alone is an indication that the potential is there to develop
relations further, without actually changing the basic policies for
both sides, but simply highlighting joint interests, not problems.

For example, the main reason why Ankara and Paris were at odds under
Sarkozy was the Armenian issue. As Sarkozy had endorsed a bill to
criminalize saying there was no Armenian genocide in the Ottoman
Empire circa 1915, before the Constitutional Court had nixed it (on
the basis of violating freedom of expression), on top of blocking
five Chapters of the European Union (EU) negotiations with Turkey,
Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government
became furious and blacklisted French companies from government tenders
in Turkey. The share of French companies in the Turkish market was
halved from 6 to 3 percent between 2009 and 2012.

Hollande did not change his or France’s policy regarding the
Armenian issue. To make that a point, he included in his schedule
a meeting today, Jan. 28 in Istanbul with Rakel Dink, the widowed
wife of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink who was murdered by an
ultranationalist mob back in 2007. But Hollande announced he would not
make the issue a problem in relations with Turkey and lifted the block
on one (but only one) EU chapter. Turkey annulled the black list and
French, together with Japan, won the tender to build Turkey’s second
nuclear power plant in Sinop, by the Black Sea coast.

It would be wrong for both Turkey and France to see the dynamics of
this relationship as EU steps in return for government contract steps.

Because, as the recent example on Turkey’s government-judiciary crisis
that started with the Dec. 17, 2013 graft probe showed, the EU can
still play a constructive role on Turkish democracy, and of course,
economy. When Erdogan heard the properly worded message from the
EU on the judiciary bill to have more political control over judges
and prosecutors, combined with pressure from within, Erdogan froze
the bill to give another chance for a conceptual Constitutional
amendment package.

Getting closer with the EU’s democratic and economic standards is
good for Turkish people and keeping Turkey closer to Europe, that
is to say, the West, is good for European people because it keeps
Turkey away from the centrifugal forces trying to drag it to its East;
the current quagmire of the Muslim geography.

When Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in the joint press conference
yesterday that Turkey wanted to have more steps toward Europe, implying
the existing French block on the remaining chapter, Hollande said for
a transparent democracy and independent judiciary EU could help Turkey
to transfer itself better. That topic, in a way, refers to the 23th and
24th Chapters of negotiations in which France can indeed lead the way.

Hollande’s visit to Ankara, especially since he was escorted by a
number of key ministers and investors, gives a unique opportunity
to enhance both political and economic relations, not only between
Turkey and France, but Turkey and the European Union as well; this
opportunity should not be missed.


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