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Friday, December 10, 2010

Resources on the Turkish EU accession negotiations with commentary

Here (for download as a pdf file) is a helpful recent (November 26, 2010) review and assessment of Turkey-EU relations from the Congressional Research Service.

The report is written by Vincent Morelli, a Section Research Manager at the CRS. His conclusion that
Turkey’s march toward EU membership appears to have slowed considerably
is not surprising to anyone that follows the issue, but the report starts and ends with basic information, so it is very useful to someone who is not yet familiar with the accession negotiation process or Turkey's application.

Here is the latest (2010) Progress Report on Turkey from the European Commission. It was drafted after the September 12 referendum on constitutional reform in Turkey, which approved an ambitious reform package on the 30 year anniversary of Turkey's last military coup (1980). The report's evaluation of the package is lukewarm:
Overall, the constitutional amendments are a step in the right direction. They address a number of priorities of the Accession Partnership in the area of the judiciary, fundamental rights and public administration. However, broad public consultation involving all political
parties and civil society, with their full engagement, is needed to strengthen support for constitutional reform. The implementation of the amended constitutional provisions through legislation, in line with European standards, is key.
Regardless of the merits of the analysis, it includes a few interesting standard element of official EU discourse on Turkey. For one thing, we see the use of a ubiquitous JOURNEY metaphor - democratic
reform as a "step in the right direction," i.e. toward democracy and (which is the same thing, according to this metaphor) Europe. Quite often, Turkey is portrayed as going to slowly or even in the wrong direction, but here there is acknowledgement of at least a small step forward.

However, the evaluation is in line with what I have described as the standard "some progress, but not enough..." response by EU officials to Turkish reforms, including the immediate shift to a concern about poor implementation whenever a legislative reform package is enacted. Granted, the Commission and Parliament's focus on implementation is not unique to Turkey, as the idea of conditionality requires implementation of reforms of all applicant states, but there are revealing differences in the tone - sometimes subtle, at other times not-so-subtle - when they are speaking about Turkey.

One often detects an underlying attitude of suspicion, where reforms are met with a "healthy dose of skepticism" and setbacks as "confirmations" of what they "knew" all along. In the case of most other applicants, it is the exact opposite. Repression under Meciar in candidate-country Slovakia in 1998, for example, was portrayed in the Parliament as a temporary obstacle and set back that was criticized while the European character and eligibility of Slovakia for membership was constantly reaffirmed.

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