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EU, AKP and Turkey

As the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, must have understood with the closure case against it from which "for conjectural reasons" it escaped closure with a narrow, thin margin, sticking to the European Union process of Turkey and re-energizing its reform drive is an existential issue for itself as much as it is in the best interest of the country.

This is a reality that the AKP must have understood, but somehow the ruling party and the prime minister while on the one hand keep on stressing their strong commitment to Turkey’s European Union membership bid, on the other hand are continuing to behave in a manner that creates doubts among E.U. leaders as well as E.U. diplomats accredited to Ankara to wonder whether they were deceived by the AKP all along and the ruling party perhaps never aimed at European Union membership.

Though some tend to attribute to the disappointment lived by the AKP government in the famous Leyla Şahin case at the European Court of Human Rights that concluded on Nov. 10, 2005 with a decision upholding a ban on wearing the Islamic headscarf at Turkish universities as the turning point in the reform drive of the AKP, still there is difficulty in understanding why the AKP has become so callous on the need to continue reforms or why it indeed stopped its outstanding reform performance in its first three years in Turkey’s administration.

Some agree as well that Cyprus was a complicating factor and the inability of the AKP to ease the international isolation of northern Cyprus was handicapping Ankara’s ability to deliver its pledges - such as opening up Turkish ports and airports to the Greek Cypriots - yet they continue questioning whether Turkey could indeed build a new and promising climate in its relations with the European Union should it "walked the extra mile" and maintained even more firmly its commitment to a pro-settlement approach on Cyprus and live up to its pledge of "being a step ahead" of the Greek side in peacemaking, while at the same time continued reforms enhancing individual freedoms and minority rights. Still, more people have started to ask nowadays, "Does the AKP gave up carrying Turkey to full membership? Is it satisfied with making Turkey a country in accession talks? Does not the AKP have a vision of Turkey in the European Union?"

Indeed, while up until recently to the dislike of opposition parties and groups in Turkey - who were all complaining that the "defeatist" approach of the AKP in fulfilling E.U. demands could hurt Turkey’s secular governance as well as national and territorial integrity - by and large the AKP was enjoying great sympathy and support from both European Commission executives and E.U. governments.

Now, more and more, not only European media are accusing the AKP of losing its reform spirit and gradually becoming no different than the past Turkish parties liquidated to a great extend by the Turkish nation, but it as well has become an actor contributing to a dangerous polarization in the Turkish society which in return was crippling the AKP’s reform capability.

AKP losing supporters in EU
Particularly, as is seen in some latest remarks to the media, the rather ultra-nationalistic jargon the prime minister has started to use in the local election campaign, as well as his very apparent "majority obsession" in pressing legislation through Parliament as well as in dealing with the opposition parties is causing frustration with the AKP even among those senior E.U. figures and Commission members who have been sympathetic toward Turkey and who have been rather critical of the failure of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, to alienate itself from the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, gang.

Up until the 2007 elections and the conclusion of the closure case against it the AKP was defending the let-up in its reform drive with the pretext that it was compelled to concentrate on those "existential matters." Now, while the government for some time started to reassert its reform drive and commitment to the E.U. process in effect it still does nothing and on the contrary with ultra-nationalist and discriminative rhetoric aimed at winning some additional votes in the upcoming local elections, it is contributing to further widening of polarization which is crippling the pledge of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, "In spite of terrorism, will seek remedies within democracy," vow