quinta-feira, 5 de maio de 2016

Turkey power shift upends EU refugee deal / Turkey’s Prime Minister Resigns Over Muted Differences With Erdogan

Turkey power shift upends EU refugee deal
The sudden transition will pose a significant challenge to the country’s relations with Europe.

By SINAN ÜLGEN 5/5/16, 5:06 PM CET Updated 5/5/16, 11:12 PM CET

ISTANBUL — The growing power struggle between Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reached its inevitable conclusion Thursday with Erdoğan forcing Davutoğlu’s resignation. The ruling AK Party will now hold an extraordinary convention May 22 to elect its new leader and the country’s chief executive office holder. As the outgoing prime minister, Davutoğlu confirmed that he would not stand for nomination.

Yet as smooth as it may appear on the surface, this sudden transition is set to have a significant impact on the country’s relations with Europe and the fate of the refugee deal.

The change in the power constellation in Turkey comes at a most inopportune time. Just a day earlier, the European Commission conditionally recommended to proceed with visa freedom with Turkey. Having very much commended Ankara’s recent efforts to comply with the 72 technical criteria set out as conditions for the lifting of visas, the Commission nonetheless stated that Turkey would still need to fulfill five of them to achieve this objective.

Of key importance is the criteria that requires Turkey to change its anti-terror legislation in line with the European acquis and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey would also need to ensure that its courts interpret the law and its law enforcement apply the legislation in accordance with European norms and practices. As a country that is under a palpable threat of terrorism as a result of the PKK’s armed campaign and the Islamic State’s suicide attacks, Turkey has been unable and unwilling to fulfill this condition.

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But with the power shift in Ankara, it has become even more difficult for Turkey to comply with such a requirement. Compared to Davutoğlu, Erdoğan has been much more categorical and hawkish regarding the implementation of the anti-terror legislation. The difference of opinion emerged very clearly with a recent case against academics who had signed a peace petition to end the violence in Turkey’s southeast. Many of the petitioners were prosecuted, some even incarcerated for allegedly backing the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist entity according to Ankara.

Erdoğan strongly backed these proceedings while calling for the anti-terror law to be broadened in scope and amended to include academics, writers and journalists that could be charged with abetting terrorism. So it is increasingly unlikely that with Erdoğan’s move to replace the AKP leadership and his unassailable influence over the ruling party, Turkey will be in a position to change its anti-terror legislation as stipulated by the European Commission.

Another key request from the Commission relates to the recently adopted legislation on data privacy where Brussels demands more independence for the Data Protection Authority but also more restraint for government agencies in terms of access to personal data on grounds of public order and national security. This will require the establishment of new norms of democratic transparency and accountability for the workings of the security and intelligence agencies, yet another politically-challenging task for Turkish authorities.

At the same time, the Commission’s margin of maneuver seems limited by the ongoing negotiations with the U.S. on cross border data flows where Brussels is intent on getting additional assurances from Washington for the protection of personal data.

Turkey will now launch a diplomatic initiative to gauge whether European institutions can demonstrate a degree of flexibility regarding the residual conditions. But the initial signs are not particularly positive with the president of the European Parliament stating unequivocally that Commission recommendation to lift visas will not be forwarded to the relevant Parliamentary committee for deliberation until Turkey fulfills all the remaining conditions.

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So just within hours of the Commission’s recommendation, the roadmap for visa liberalization and by extension the refugee deal seems to be upended.

Ankara stated clearly that it would suspend the Turkey-EU Readmission Agreement unless it receives visa freedom from Europe, potentially leading to the collapse of the whole refugee deal. So instead of a happy ending, the prospect of which had been briefly ushered in by the Commission recommendation, the more likely scenario now is one of a bitter divorce.

The consequences will be significant not only for Ankara’s relations with Europe but also for many European countries that will start to face growing number of illegal migrants on their shores.

Sinan Ülgen is a former Turkish diplomat, the executive chairman of the Istanbul based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels.


Sinan Ülgen  

Turkey’s Prime Minister Resigns Over Muted Differences With Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s quest to consolidate power has claimed one of his closest and highest-profile allies: Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

In his resignation speech Thursday, Davutoglu said he had concluded, after consulting with the president, that a change in the “prime minister’s position would serve a better purpose.” His vaguely worded explanation appears to reference Erdogan’s proposed constitutional amendment to further empower the president and reduce the position of the prime minister to a ceremonial one.
Despite ending a long and fruitful professional relationship with Erdogan, Davutoglu, who served as his foreign minister for five years before becoming prime minister in 2014, assured the public that they remain on good terms.

“Our relationship is still friendly. … You will never hear me say negative things about the president,” Davutoglu said in his speech at the headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He said he would step down after a party meeting on May 22.

Rumors of a falling-out between the two men started to swirl a few days ago, first appearing on a mysterious blog. The writer, a suspected Erdogan confidante, accused Davutoglu of betraying the country by resisting the planned transition to a presidential system and supporting a “transparency law,” among other initiatives opposed by the president.

In his years as foreign minister, Davutoglu forged strong working relationships with many foreign leaders in the West, including with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He was the point man for negotiating Turkey’s agreement this spring to accept unwanted refugees from Europe in return for money and visa-free travel.

He also may have been caught in the middle of Erdogan’s ongoing battle with free speech and press freedoms. Davutoglu was by no means a publicly ardent and outspoken defender of the media, but as recently as March, he told a European Council assembly he was “against any restriction of freedom of speech.”

Erdogan, by contrast, has been relentless on his critics in the media, protesters, and others who dare to even poke fun at him — whether in Turkey or beyond its borders.   

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