The effects of the Presidential system implemented in 2018 on the economy are wellknown. Now this system has begun to deeply affect Turkey’s foreign policy. These effects were made clear with this year’s European Union report on Turkey, released last week. The report clearly states that Erdogan’s system of government has caused Turkey to suffer on the global stage.
The report states that the Turkish parliament has lost its ability to oversee the government, and that lawfully-binding presidential decrees eliminate legislative governance. The report confirmed that the government’s “democratic accountability” is reduced to elections.
Furthermore, the report emphasizes that the independence of the judiciary is a facade. The government, according to the report, uses the Council of Judges and Prosecutors to curry influence through appointment and promotion.
Many of the actions taken by the government since the July 2016 coup attempt also came under fire in the report. The government is condemned for threatening opposition parties and imposing administrative and financial obstacles on opposition municipalities. Further, the report states, the act of replacing democratically-elected People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayors with trustees in recent years is undemocratic. The report also found that the postcoup state of emergency, which remained in place for two years, in essence continues to function through reforms and legislation enacted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The report also considers the economic effects of the Presidential system and Turkey’s current governance. The head of Turkey’s Central Bank, it states, should be autonomous according to Turkish law. However, President Erdogan has directly replaced the Central Bank head twice in the last year.
Also considered in the report are the government’s suppression of civil society, rampant corruption, and organized crime not being sufficiently tackled.
In other words: the European Union directly criticized Turkey’s domestic political system.
The critique did not stop there: the report also denounces Turkey’s foreign policy under the AKP. In particular, Turkey is condemned for its tendency to resort to military force rather than diplomatic channels. The report also spoke out on behalf of Greek and •rthodox communities and regions in conflict with Turkey, particularly in the Aegean-Mediterranean.
10 EMBASSIES CALL FOR KAVALA’S RELEASE
The EU report was not the only critical development in Turkey-Western foreign policy last week. Just as the report was released, representatives from 10 Western countries, including Germany, France, and the U.S., called on Turkey to release philanthropist •sman Kavala from prison on the fourth anniversary of his arrest. Kavala has been imprisoned since 2017, when he was arrested for allegedly trying to overthrow the Turkish state and remains in detention despite a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) calling for his release.
Ankara immediately responded by saying the statement was an “interference with Turkey’s independent judiciary.”
LIKE, REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING?
Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution places international agreements at the top of the hierarchy of the Turkish legal system. The article makes international agreements Turkey is party to legally binding. Turkey is party to the European Convention on Human Rights and is also legally obligated to implement decisions handed down by the ECHR.
Considering this, the failure to implement the ECHR decision to release Kavala is a violation of “rule of law” as guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a founding member, warned Ankara in June 2020 about their legal obligation to implement the Kavala decision. Considering Turkey’s continued inaction, it might be time for Council of Europe members to again “remind” the government that they must implement the decision.
INTERESTING: THE U.S. AND NEW ZEALAND SIGNED ONTO THE STATEMENT
It is notable that both the U.S. and New Zealand, neither of which are members of the Council of Europe or party to the ECHR, are among the ten countries that called on Ankara to release Kavala. The involvement of these two countries, particularly the U.S., carries the declaration beyond just a “friendly warning ” to Ankara.
But here is the question that comes to mind: could the experience of previous interventions and their results have been behind the U.S.’s reckless involvement in the declaration?
Of course. When former President Trump pushed for American pastor Andrew Brunson to be released from Turkish prison, he had results. Likewise, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in on behalf of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, he was released while still on trial. And when French President Macron requested that President Erdogan release French journalist Loup Bureau, he was set free a month later. We still remember these instances.
In fact, when the ambassadors from these ten countries were summoned by the Turkish Foreign Ministry to be warned, none of them demonstrated remorse or tread lightly. Perhaps this behavior was the result of these past experiences.