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The European Union and Turkish Accession

Auteurs : | Mark Muller
Éditeur : Pluto Press Date & Lieu : 2008, London
Préface : Noam Chomsky Pages : 260
Traduction : ISBN : 978-0-7453-2785-3
Langue : AnglaisFormat : 135x215 mm
Thème : Politique

Table des Matières Introduction Identité PDF
The European Union and Turkish Accession

The European Union and Turkish Accession: Human Rights and the Kurds
Kerim Yildiz and Mark Muller
Foreword by Noam Chomsky

In 2004, the European Union (EU) delivered the historical and longawaited decision to open the formal accession negotiations with Turkey. The prevailing mood, on both sides, was fi lled with hope, promise and optimism. For Turkey, the decision meant an eagerly anticipated step closer towards membership of the ‘exclusive club’ of Western states. For the EU, the decision enabled it to kick-start the reform process within Turkey. Fast-forward three years later to 2007, and the air of optimism has, unfortunately, faded and been replaced by scepticism, unfulfi lled promises, pessimism and rising tensions.

This book follows the development of the accession process, analysing the various aspects of the negotiations between the EU and Turkey. It expands the viewpoint to provide wider examination of the current accession process, covering civil, political, cultural and minority rights in Turkey; the military and Islamists in Turkish politics; confl ict in the southeast and its international dimension; internal displacements; the Kurdish question, and future considerations of the accession. There is a pressing need for discussion on the issues this book covers because, despite the seemingly rapid reform process since the opening of the accession talks, most of the reforms are yet to be realized. Turkey continues to violate the basic
rights of her citizens and up until now, the lack of commitment towards genuine reforms has been unfortunately explicit in Turkey.

Furthermore, since 2004 there has been a sharp increase in resistance within Europe to Turkey’s accession to the EU, which creates further obstacles on the path towards the membership. Correspondingly, the support for, and trust in, the EU is declining in Turkey, coupled with rising nationalism.


Turkey is, one may argue, a country of contrasts. The oft-employed defi nition of Turkey as ‘a bridge between the East and the West’ is only the beginning of the numerous disparities that exist in modern Turkey. There are enormous opportunities, but at the same time, great threats; huge potential but continuous misuse of it; optimism, let down by dark pessimism; modernism but backwardness; rapid reforms swiftly followed by periods of radical conservatism. Such uneven existence can be traced as far back as the founding of the republic in 1923, when a new identity was forced upon the population by the ruling elite; the Turks, arguably, still feel uneasy about their identity and are in constant search of a comfortably constructed mould in which to place themselves. Perhaps no country has tried to ‘Westernize’ itself as much as Turkey. Though criticism of its ‘Western’ credentials from some European quarters can be harsh, it is nonetheless true that Turkey has yet to fully embrace the values that make a country truly modern: human rights and democracy. The Kurdish population of Turkey is the most obvious victim of Turkey’s continuing identity crisis and uneven approach towards modernization. Turkey was founded on an idea of a homogeneous nation state, ‘one state, one nation’, in which all citizens were defi ned as ‘Turks’. The Illusion of a homogenous population was short-lived, but the strong state and it’s repressive attitude towards any non- Turkish elements within the republic, alas, prevails. Needless to say that such an approach and its implementation is constantly blocking Turkey’s way to genuinely break free from the contrasts that have so often contributed to the struggle to truly modernize herself. The depressing reality of today’s Turkey is that severe repression and violence continue to reign. Anyone who speaks against the offi cial state policies, practising the fundamental right of freedom of speech, faces the threat of being prosecuted for offences such as ‘insulting Turkishness’ or using the Kurdish language in public. I have been greatly privileged to catch a glimpse of Turkey from Istanbul in the west, to Diyarbakır, the capital of the Turkey’s Kurdish southeastern region. However, much to my surprise, I returned from Turkey feeling far more optimistic than when I went. It was truly inspiring to witness fi rst-hand the courage and dedication of the leading artists, writers, academics, journalists, publishers and others who carry on the daily struggle for freedom of speech and human rights, not just through statements but also through regular civil disobedience, facing penalties that can be severe. Some have spent a good part of their lives in Turkish prisons because of their insistence on recording the true history of the miserably oppressed Kurdish population: sociologist I . smail Beßikci, to mention one notorious case, was re-arrested in 1993 for publishing a book on state terror in Turkey, having already spent 15 years in prison. He also refused a $10,000 prize from the US Fund for Free Expression in protest against Washington’s strong support for Turkish repression, which is virtually unknown in the US, in accord with the standard principle that one’s own crimes must be effaced.

It is ironic that while promoting human rights and democracy, the US highly praises Turkey for its counter-terror methods. Traditionally, the US and Turkey have a ‘special relationship’. On the outbreak of the Cold War, the US quickly realized Turkey’s geo-strategic importance as a Western enclave in an otherwise volatile region, and granted her a NATO membership in 1952. Over 50 years later the Europeans are still debating Turkey’s suitability to join their ‘Western club’ and are even more suspicious of any feasible security arrangements with Turkey. Turkey remained a loyal ally of the US throughout the Cold War, and the collapse of communism in the late 1980s witnessed a renewal of the partnership in keeping with emerging US strategic concerns. Rather than acting as a bulwark against the Soviet threat, Turkey was now a channel through which to infl uence the heartland of Eurasia; Central Asia. Turkey was the most devoted ally of the US in the fi rst Gulf War of 1990–91 and, as a result, received vast economic assistance, and substantial military aid.

The post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ era kick-started a new dimension to the relationship. Despite clear evidence of grave breaches of human rights of the Kurds in Turkey, no Security Council resolutions have ever been passed on the matter and the furthest that the US is willing to acknowledge the problem is to qualify it as an internal one. The US administration’s ‘Back to Realism’ approach is very much in line with that of the military hard-liners in Turkey. And in a country where the military has such a prominent role in politics, it is the rigid stance of the military that, to a large degree, shapes mainstream policies. It is, however, paradoxical that the US appears to have great concern for the human rights and well-being of the Kurds of northern Iraq but turns a blind eye to serious human rights violations across the border in Turkey. Such contradictions inevitably serve as evidence that US foreign policy is more driven by strategic interests than genuine human rights concerns. In recent years, there have been growing arguments that the ‘special relationship’ between the US and Turkey is falling apart and that Turkey is growing more and more anti-American. However, many observers judge such arguments as mere fallacy. As former Turkish ambassador Özdem Sanberk has stated: ‘Any talk of “alternatives” [to Turkey’s pro-Western foreign policy] is just talk.’1

Speaking from personal experience, which I bring up with diffi dence, for what it may be worth, there seems to be a good deal of public support in Turkey for the people who are carrying out the struggle for free speech and human rights, and who should inspire not only great respect but also humility among their Western colleagues. The record of abuses continues day after day, and could be brought to an end with public support in the West. The courage of the people is beyond my ability to describe, from children in the streets wearing Kurdish colours – a serious offence, for which punishment of the families could be severe – to a large and enthusiastic public meeting I attended in Diyarbakır. At the end of this meeting several students came forward and in front of TV and police cameras, presented me with a Kurdish–English dictionary. This was an act of considerable bravery, and a precious gift; right at that time students and their parents were being interrogated, reportedly tortured, and facing imprisonment for submitting legal petitions requesting the right to have elective courses in their native language. On the front page of the dictionary they wrote the following words:

Do you know the pain of not seeing our dreams in our mother tongue? We would like to see our dreams in our mother tongue. And we gave 1600 applications to see our dreams in our mother tongue. And we are being judged ‘human interference’ in order to see our dreams in Kurdish. And we are being arrested to see our dreams in Kurdish. Our main goal is to shout our language that has lost its voice for ages.

Denial of even these minimal rights is cruel beyond words. They have the support of many brave and honourable people in Turkey, facing prison or worse. They ask only that we offer them every form of assistance within our reach, and do what we can to help them achieve their worthy and justifi ed aims – which means, in particular, putting an end to our critically important contribution to the repression and violence to which they are subjected.

As part of the accession process the European Union has posed human rights conditions for Turkish application for membership. The conditions are justifi ed and have prompted Turkey to engage in democratic reform. Since 2002 the Turkish Parliament has passed new laws that have a good deal of promise. However, despite these developments Turkey’s relationship with Europe remains troublesome; much to the frustration of the EU, Turkey’s reform process has recently experienced a slowdown, a setback some would argue, and there are suspicions, justifi ed too, that elements within the EU may seek to raise the bar continually because of an unwillingness to tolerate Turkish membership in the European club. These are all matters that should not be ignored within Europe.

Notwithstanding the reforms enacted as a part of the EU accession process, reports from international organizations continue to outline both the promise and the inadequacy of the Turkish reform process, and call on us to support the people of Turkey in overcoming the repressive acts of the Turkish state. The current record is mixed. There is general agreement that day-to-day repression has been mitigated. On the other hand, anti-democratic tendencies stall the reform process, and, as throughout the world, the fi ght against terrorism continues to be used as a pretext by the Turkish state for committing human rights violations. Turkish anti-terror legislation has recently been amended so as to target the free press and media, just as the rights of people held in detention on terror-related charges have been seriously limited. Trials for ‘thought crimes’, the continued application of offi cially defunct ‘state of emergency rules’, the bars against return to villages, and other serious abuses further cast doubt on the comprehensiveness of the Turkish reform process. The Publishers Union of Turkey has reported a rising trend in the banning of books and music, and accusations against authors and publishers. This practice of state intimidation has led to an environment of selfcensorship among Turkish intellectuals. Kurds and Kurdish issues remain the primary targets, but not the only ones; even a dictionary about women’s slang was banned, also a grammar and dictionary of a local Greek dialect.

Turkey continues to pursue a policy of perceiving the situation in the southeast of the country as a security matter linked to terrorism. Turkey has long been convinced that unrest in the southeast region is orchestrated by Kurdish separatist groups operating from the mountainous area between Turkey and Iraq. Relations between Turkey and the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq are at a frosty low due to Turkey’s recent accusations that the Kurdistan Regional Government is aiding what Turkey refers to as ‘Kurdish terrorists’. Turkey has threatened to invade parts of northern Iraq in order to root out alleged terrorist camps. In February 2007, during a visit to Washington, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish military, General Yaßar Büyükanıt, underlined the determination of the military to protect Turkey’s territorial integrity, targeting his tough remarks at separatist Kurds on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border as well as Kurdish leaders in Northern Iraq.2 Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Masoud Barzani have urged Turkey not to engage in military activity in northern Iraq as such an operation would only worsen the situation and turn the relatively peaceful area into a battlefi eld. Relations between the two neighbours were further damaged when in mid-June 2007 the Turkish state prosecutor launched an investigation against Barzani for allegedly lending his support to Turkish Kurdish rebels. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd, has warned Turkey that Iraq will not accept ‘interference in our affairs’.3

The political changes following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 have further fuelled Turkey’s anxiety over developments in northern Iraq, in particular in relation to the situation in Kirkuk. The issue of Kirkuk threatens to worsen already fragile diplomatic relations between Turkey and Iraq. Turkey’s greatest fear is that Kurdish control over Kirkuk and its vast oil resources will provide the Iraqi Kurds with the necessary economic resources to operate with relative autonomy from Baghdad or declare independence. Thus, Turkey is determined not to allow Kirkuk to be incorporated into a Kurdish entity within a federal Iraqi state. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog˘an has warned that Turkey will not stand by if Kurds try to realize the objective of including Kirkuk in a Kurdish autonomous region.4 Turkey’s engagement in northern Iraq combined with the Kirkuk issue pose a considerable strain on the relationship between long-term allies US and Turkey. Turkish concerns have been greatly aggravated by what Turkey sees as America’s failure to keep Kurdish ambitions in Iraq in check. In response the US has sought to reassure Turkey by stressing that the US will not countenance the splintering of Iraq. Turkey has become increasingly frustrated by the unwillingness of Foreword xv

 the US to deal with ‘Kurdish terrorists’ in northern Iraq. However, Prime Minister Erdog˘an is under pressure from the US not to further complicate the already disastrous situation there. The situation highlights the importance of reaching a solution to the Kurdish issue. So far, there has been an apparent lack of international political will to classify the situation in the southeast of Turkey as anything other than an internal terror-related issue. At present, with the situation threatening to spill over into northern Iraq the need for a democratic solution is as great as ever. However, neither Turkey nor the US has seriously or honestly made efforts to pursue a democratic solution to the situation. Given the dedication of both administrations to the ‘War on Terror’, it is unlikely that any initiative will be formed from that side. Thus, with the accession process in train, the EU has an unprecedented opportunity to push for a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue and the situation in the southeast.

Domestically, the EU is often viewed as the most effective channel to democratization; as an MP from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) points out:

We felt from the very beginning the desperate need for democratisation in the country and that was one of our main starting points.

I view the EU as an anchor in that process … an anchor that can help all segments of Turkish society live in peace. There will not be any grounds for radicalisation, both ethnic and religious, with the EU anchor firmly in place.5

So far, despite its Islamic roots, the AKP has appeared seriously committed to the EU reform process, and in fact has been the most effective vehicle toward democratization that the Turkish Republic has perhaps ever witnessed. The much anticipated elections in July 2007 confi rmed the public’s trust in the AKP’s efforts; Turkey’s electorate gave its massive support to the AKP in a landslide victory. Turkey’s current accession process presents the EU with a historical opportunity to fi nally realize its potential to take the lead as a serious international player and to challenge US hegemony. Unless the EU takes a prominent role in the region, the international community might see a repetition of the events that occurred in the Balkans in the 1990s when the EU failed to take adequate action to prevent gross human rights violations. The inability of the EU to act prompted the US, once again, to intervene in European affairs. Given the US fi ght against terrorism, any US-brokered solution to the human rights issue in the southeast would be unlikely to benefi t the Kurds of Turkey. The international community has a responsibility towards the Kurds in reaching a democratic solution to the long-lasting struggle of the Kurds in Turkey. It is perhaps the most elementary of moral truisms that we are primarily responsible for the anticipated consequences of our own action, or inaction. It is easy, and sometimes gratifying, to wring our hands over the crimes of others, about which we can often do little. Looking in the mirror is vastly more important, not merely to preserve elementary integrity, but, far more signifi cant, because of what we can then do, if we wish, to help people who are struggling so courageously for elementary rights.

Noam Chomsky

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