Turkey: current developments and ambitions

Photograph: 'Atatürk, Düzce, Turkey'

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an approved a new government on Tuesday which will be led by his long-time ally Binali Yildirim who has now replaced Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister.  The new prime minister wants to institute constitutional reforms that would expand the powers of the presidency, as the president largely plays a ceremonial role under the current Turkish Constitution.  Critics believe this new shift proves Erdo?an’s authoritarian ambitions of concentrating as much power as possible in his own hands. Changing the constitution of a country is quite a big deal and a big step to take. German leader Angela Merkel also expressed her concerns when the Turkish parliament decided to strip scores of lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity, which, according to her, would have “serious consequences” for Kurdish politicians. This decision is likely to sideline the pro-Kurdish opposition and ease Erdogan’s path to stronger powers.

Another recent development has been how the Brexit camp has started to use Turkey to promote the case for Britain leaving the EU. UK justice secretary Michael Gove and the leave campaign have argued that Turkey will be able to join the European Union by 2020. British defence secretary Penny Mordaunt also publicly said that Britain does not have a veto on whether Turkey joins the EU or not, and that she believes Turkey is heading towards becoming part of the EU, especially with the way the refugee crisis is going. However, David Cameron has voiced his disagreement with this stance in an interview on ITV’s Peston on Sunday. “She is absolutely wrong. Let me be clear, Britain and every other country in the EU has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact.” He also used the opportunity to criticize the leave campaign. “The fact that the leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong should call into judgment the bigger argument about leaving the EU.”

There has also been much debate about a new poster that the leave campaign released in which it places Turkey at the forefront of their argument to vote leave. The poster depicts how Turkey and its population of 76 million people will soon be joining the EU and thus be able to freely pass in and out of the UK. The leave campaigners believe that, due to Turkey’s high birth rate, the UK could see one million people added to its population from Turkey alone within eight years. This recent move by the Brexit camp has offended many Turkish people living in Britain and help to strengthen the claim that the EU referendum campaigns are based on fear mongering. Despite what the leave campaign is saying, David Cameron still doesn’t think Turkey is anywhere close to joining the EU and has said that they would probably only be ready by the year 3000. Whatever other European leaders say, Erdo?an expressed his thoughts on these criticisms and said that he believes the EU needs generic tetracycline capsules Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU.

President Erdo?an also sent out a warning saying that Turkey’s parliament will block a deal reached with the EU on migrants if Turkish people do not gain access to visa-free travel to the EU. However, Angela Merkel said that the Turkish people will probably not be able to obtain visa-free travel by the current set deadline of July 1 because the Turkish government has not yet fulfilled the necessary conditions. The EU has been trying to persuade Turkey to make changes to their anti-terror laws, but, so far, there hasn’t been much progress. Turkey is obliged to meet a list of 72 criteria which range from biometric passports to respecting human rights. Despite talks, Erdo?an has made it clear that Turkey does not intend on changing their counter-terror laws because they deem them to be necessary as long as the fight against Kurdish militants and ISIS continues.

Erdo?an also claimed that funds promised by the EU have yet to reach Turkey. The refugee problem has put a severe strain on Turkey, especially after the recent EU-Turkey agreement of March 20. This agreement called for all migrants who arrive illegally in Greece to be sent to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected. So far, Turkey has taken in some three million refugees and has had to spend about $10 billion of their budget on dealing with the refugee crisis.

The Turkish president also expressed how he feels that the U.S is not doing enough to help Turkey fight ISIS within its borders. The Turkish town of Kilis has especially been hit strongly. Erdo?an urged the U.S to actively help Turkey combat ISIS and to take ISIS attacks in Turkey just as seriously as those that occurred in Brussels and Paris. Erdo?an also criticized the G7 leaders for not attending the world’s first Humanitarian Summit which was held in Istanbul on May 23 and May 24. The executive director of Oxfam, Winnie Byanyima, echoed these feelings“It is shameful that rich countries are moaning, complaining, sending refugees back, cutting deals behind their backs … We want to see rich countries step up to the plate, absorb refugees and give them opportunities in their countries.”

As the fight against ISIS continues, and the severity of the refugee crisis grows, Turkey will have to continue their struggle to get increasing amounts of support to deal with these issues. Things may be able to change if the new prime minister is able to successfully change the Turkish constitution and grant the president more powers. Erdo?an might then be able to take decisive actions to back up his strong rhetoric against Europe and the U.S. With a new government in place and with the country facing difficulties on several fronts, it shouldn’t be too surprising if the world starts seeing an even more assertive Turkey.

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Gabriela Bernal 24 Articles
Gabriela Bernal is interested in politics, international relations, and terrorism. She is pursuing a degree in political science and plans on pursuing her postgraduate studies in the U.K. She likes to write, read, play tennis, travel, and learn new languages.

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