23 April 2007

Europe's Boost To Turkey's Military

Brussels is to blame for the recent backsliding in Ankara.

Don't just take my word for it – read this from today's International Herald Tribune, coming just days after Turkish armed forces began "a spring offensive against rebels with the PKK" (Kurdistan Workers Party):

It is important to understand the dynamic effect the European Union has had on the Turkish political system. The very prospect of Turkey's EU membership has been nothing less than an anchor of economic and political reform.

The overwhelming popularity of the EU project among average Turks in 2003-2004 made it possible for Erdogan's government to undertake a series of far-reaching political changes. The overall affect of these reforms was the development of a more open and democratic Turkey and a much diminished capacity for the military to meddle in politics. Indeed, by the end of 2004 when the EU commission recommended that membership negotiations with Ankara begin the following calendar year, Turkey was firmly on a liberal, democratic trajectory.

Just as the European Union was decisive in spurring Turkish reform a few years ago, Brussels is currently contributing to a return of some old and bad habits in Ankara. ...

The consequence of European opposition to Turkey's accession is a precipitous decline in support for Union membership among Turks. In 2004, some 77 percent of Turkey's population favored taking the necessary steps to join Europe, now only 30 percent do so. Candidate countries often exhibit a drop in public enthusiasm for EU membership when their populations confront the reality of both abdicating some sovereignty to Brussels and the hard task of conforming to the Union's laws, decrees, and norms. The fact that Europe's opposition to Turkish membership is based on religious and cultural factors only accentuates this problem.

In Turkey, the negative signals from Europe and subsequent steep fall off in support for EU membership have provided the generals with room to maneuver in the political arena.