ASSOCIATE PROF. CENGİZ AKTAR : “AKP Government and Constitutency at Odds Over the EU”

BIANET 3.10.2012 – The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) emphasized nationalist and islamic references during a party congress over the weekend, but Associate Prof. Cengiz Aktar from Bahçeşehir University believes the AKP’s grasroots constituency has other ideas.

The government of the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) is inclined not to pay heed to Turkey’s stalled accession negotiations for membership in the European Union (EU,) but the party’s grasroots constituency has a different take on the issue, according to Assoc. Prof. Cengiz Aktar, the head of the Department of EU Relations at Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University. “It represents a weakness of the AKP not to pay heed to the EU project when their constituency has such a good grasp of the EU, as far as I am concerned. The Turkish public knows all too well what the EU is about,” he said.

The AKP’s Fourth Congress in Ankara over the weekend was marked by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech where he made no mention of Turkey’s EU aspirations but rather chose to emphasize nationalist and islamic references, while the EU ranks number 60 among the AKP’s 63 self-declared goals.

“The Anatolian [heartland] is making trade with the EU, for one. The projects and deeds undertaken by the EU in Anatolia through its harmonization funds are evident and have been increasingly gaining a higher profile. Moreover, the AKP’s constituency knows that Europe is not a bad thing, thanks to [migrant workers] who headed off to Europe many years ago,” Assoc. Prof. Aktar said.

“On the other hand, Turkey shows that it needs EU norms and standards politically and economically with each passing day. Turkey cannot make reforms, advance her democracy or solve conflicts on its own. Her only source of inspiration in getting things right is western standards. It is not possible to give up western standards so easily,” he added.

“As such, President Abdullah Gül highlighted this once more during his opening speech in Parliament [on Monday] and fell at odds with the AKP administration over the EU. I believe that it would be a mistake to trash relations with the EU in view of its current problems and not to take the [bloc] seriously,” he said.

Assoc. Prof. Aktar also said Prime Minister Erdoğan’s references to past Turkish leaders during his party’s congress, including the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, its first elected Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, the late Prime Minister Turgut Özal and islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan, were all problematic:

“Kemal, Menderes and Özal were all hand in glove with Europe. They were politicians who took steps to carry Turkey toward Europe. Therefore, there is a problem about these references,” he noted.

“If the AKP’s vision for Turkey is to establish a union that would present an alternative to the EU such as Erbakan’s M-8 (made up of muslim countries,) then we have a problem,” he also added. (EKN)