Türkiye'nin en iyi köşe yazarları en güzel köşe yazıları ile Hürriyet'te! Usta yazarlar ve gündemi değerlendiren köşe yazılarını takip edin.

AKP’s reforms a la carte

The reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada, shuttered since 1971, is back on the agenda. This will no doubt spark reactions from two groups. I call the first, "the Lausanne group," the second, "the Vatican group."

The Lausanne group will claim that there is a reciprocity principle in the peace treaty signed in the aftermath of World War I. The reciprocity principle is established between the Greek minority in Turkey and the Turkish minority in Greece, according to this group.

First of all, not all the experts share this view. "There is not a direct reciprocity. There are parallel commitments," some experts argue. Second, the same experts argue that the concept of human rights has changed since then.

Human rights, whether minority rights, religious rights or women’s rights, have become a top priority in international relations. Thus it comes as a big surprise when Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s Chief Negotiator on EU talks, says the reopening of the seminary is an internal issue. He should be the last one to say that.

In fact he should be the first one to know that human rights cannot be perceived as an internal issue especially in a country that aspires to become a member of the EU.

Meanwhile, even if one assumes that there is a reciprocity principle as far as the Greek minority and Turkish minority is concerned, has this negative linkage led to any improvement in the situation of the Turks in Western Thrace? It has not. Wouldn’t it be better if Turkey changed tactics, started by improving the rights of the minorities in Turkey and then continue with pursuing an improvement of the rights of Turkish minorities in other countries?

Can you imagine Turkey complaining of Greece to the EU? Can you imagine a platform where, whenever Turkey starts criticizing the situation in Greece, the answer is, "yes but you don’t have a better record."

The wrong doing of Greece should not legitimize the wrong doing in Turkey.

The Turkish government should respond to the requests of its own citizens: the Greek minority. Then it will realize that the positive side effect of such a policy will enable it to exert a more effective pressure on third countries with which it wants to pursue a human rights agenda.

The second group, which I call, "the Vatican group," is composed of those that oppose the reopening of the seminary saying: "This will start a process that will lead to the recognition of the ecumenical title of the Greek Patriarchate. We will create a new Vatican." First of all, is the Vatican "a breeding ground for evil ideas?" Second, if the orthodox churches have decided among themselves that the one in Istanbul is the first among equals, who are the Turks to disagree with that? Third, what is wrong with being home to an important religious institution? Turkey can only benefit from the existence of an important religious institution on its soil.

All these are difficult to be accepted by the majority of Turks because they are taken hostage by the official ideology and the paranoia inflicted on them by the state institutions.

It looks like the honor of reopening the Halki seminary will most likely belong to the Justice and Development Party, or the AKP. Just as it will go on the record for being the most courageous political party to curb the authority of the army, it might as well go on history as the party that has done the most to improve the rights of the minorities.

But there is a problem about the democratic and reform oriented nature of the AKP. It is very selective.

In other words it only moves on the issue that suits its interests. It will look for ways of reopening the seminary, because the AKP believes it is cost free and it will gain the appreciation of not only the EU but the United States as well. The AKP can introduce through a midnight operation a legal amendment paving the way for the military to be judged in civil courts.

The AKP says the legal amendment is required for the EU reform. But when it comes to other reforms that the EU has been emphasizing, the AKP is playing the three monkeys; like making the necessary amendments to avoid political interference on the appointments of judges, or creating an independent body to investigate corruption. These are just two among several issues where the EU has been asking for changes, which does not suit the interests of the AKP. That obviously sheds doubt on the credibility of the AKP.