Turkey’s ruling AK Party opts for isolation in Europe by choosing AECR

20 November 2013 /TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL – Two heavyweights of the European Parliament have criticized the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leadership for joining the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) as a full member after leaving Europe’s largest political family, the Christian Democrats, where it had “observer” status.

Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the Dutch Christian Democrat and EP’s rapporteur on Turkey said she could not believe when she heard the news that the AK Party defected from her party and joined the AECR, expressing her belief that the ruling party in Turkey since 2002 has chosen “isolation in Europe.”

German Liberal and shadow rapporteur of his group on Turkey Alexander Graf Lambsdorff agreed with Oomen-Ruijten, underlining that he also had difficulty understanding why a party like the AK Party, which was so strong in its country, would opt for a party that was basically known for its anti-EU stance. Lambsdorff said the AK Party’s membership in the AECR is amongst “very bad company.”In a TV program broadcast on Samanyolu Haber TV, the two members of the EP said they could not really understand the motive behind the move. The AK Party says it has been badly treated by the EPP Group (Christian Democrats) and that promises of associate membership were not kept.

Criticizing the AK Party with harsh words, Oomen-Ruijten claimed the decision showed that the party leadership did not understand what the EU was all about. “If you want to connect yourself with an island, then it could have some meaning. But I understand Turkey does not want to be an island but to be the heart of it,” she said. The AECR had only one prime minister among 28 member countries who wanted to take his country out of the EU, said Oomen-Ruijten. She was referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who promised his people, if re-elected, that he would put the EU membership to referendum in 2017.

Lambsdorff seemed not to buy the AK Party’s argument that it had now become a full member of a political group. He said the AK Party has become a part of a very small group that has a dubious attitude to the future of the EU. He said it was “a very bad move” on the AK Party side, stressing that the AK Party “has now become a Eurosceptic party.” Lambsdorff, who is also the deputy chairman of the Liberal Group in the EP, said he understood the frustration of the AK Party with the snail-paced accession talks but said that, nevertheless, the switch to the AECR was not a good idea at all.