If sources in Ankara are to be believed,
Turkey’s newly elected appointed government has not been sitting on their laurels during the Eid holiday, but instead is preparing to take steps towards a rapprochement with the EU, hopeful to make amends with a few lost friends and to prove to the United States -and the Trump administration in particular, that she is not all alone.
With the reports calling for Turkey’s Reform Action Group (RAG) to convene on August 29 to possibly come up with a new reform package other steps designed to make the EU get Turkey out of their watchlist. The push and shove with the Netherlands that has been quite needlessly going on for more than a year now will also be most possibly addressed. It is too soon to say whether more comprehensive issues such as customs unions and visa-free travel will be put on the table at this time, but indications are such that Turkey is gearing up to for a period of full head-on negotiations with Europe.
Reform Action Group (RAG), previously known as Reform Monitoring Group (RMG) is sort of a decision-making body for the reform packages related to the EU, and it is comprised of three ministries: Foreign, Justice and the Interior. This upcoming meeting is particularly significant given the fact that the group has not met since 2014 when the talks with Brussels began breaking down. They had been pretty effective in the past with their contributions to Constitutional reform, justice and anti-corruption measures.
President Erdogan has recently instructed his cabinet to kick-start negotiations with the EU, and the head of Committee on Foreign Affairs, Volkan Bozkir has also been invited to the August 29 meeting. Signals out of EU seem to have contributed to Turkey’s renewed efforts towards a draft that the group will work on and later on present to Europe. Turkey’s number one priority is to be taken off EU’s political and judicial supervision which it has been taken under since March 2017. Among the reasons for the EU’s decision were Turkey’s extended state of emergency, restricted freedoms of expression as well as undue detention periods for politicians, journalists and others. They had given Turkey until the end of 2018 to overcome the obstacles, and expressly stated that Turkey’s negotiations for ascension to full membership would be permanently taken off the table if Turkey did not step up.
This is a positive development -no matter what the circumstances are. Turkey has long been a global character on the worldwide stage, with all of her four extremities being pulled by the US, the EU, the Arab world, and the Russia-China-Iran axis. With one of its influencers in the West having turned its back on her, Turkey has to double up on her efforts to reconcile with Europe. Until recent past, Erdogan always had the US trump card to hold against the EU. But the Trump card has now slipped from our fingers and Turkey needs Europe more than ever, both financially but also strategically.
One little snippet of cynicism about Turkey’s embrace of Europe is with regards to Pastor Brunson. There are some who believe that there is a more clandestine reason for the reforms in preparation. They say that a reduction in the detention times is geared towards releasing Andrew Brunson -the alleged root of our problems with the USA. An enactment serving this purpose may give Erdogan the opportunity to release Brunson without losing face. Though this may be an added bonus, it would lie on the border of conspiracy to imagine that the whole initiative would rest on it. It is much more likely that rapprochement with the EU is the only tool that Erdogan has to make Trump reconsider his hand.
August 29 is the date we should be keeping our eyes on for many reasons.