Archive | May 3rd, 2017

Turkey Has Become a Semi-Candidate Country for EU Membership

Adelina Marini

The EU has finally officially recognised the obvious, namely that Turkey no longer fulfils the criteria to be a candidate for EU membership. The Union, however, is divided on what to do next – whether to formally end the negotiations with the oldest candidate for membership or just to announce them frozen, as they practically are at the moment. The reason for the latest EU dilemma is the referendum, which took place on April 16th, which gives the president new, sweeping powers. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), an institution that measures the democratic evolution of its members, has voted a resolution which restores permanent monitoring of Turkey. This means that the country has returned to its starting point in terms of democratic development. Until 25 April, Turkey was subjected only to a follow-up surveillance, which is levied on countries where democracy has started, but has not developed fully yet. Bulgaria, by the way, is still in this group, regardless of its ten-year long EU membership.

Turkey united Eurosceptics and pro-European forces in the European Parliament

The EU has walked a long way of inaction with regard to Turkey, with which the membership talks have been partially frozen because of the unresolved issue with Cyprus and because of the lack of consensus in the EU on the acceptability of Turkey’s full-fledged membership in the Union. Besides the blocked 8 chapters, the opening of new chapters has also gone extremely slowly for years. The negotiation process was virtually halted until 2015, when the EU was hit by a severe refugee crisis. The deal, struck between the Union and Turkey for holding the refugees on Turkish territory is currently the thing that holds the negotiating process hanging in a legal and political vacuum. This reason was named directly by not just anyone, but by Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, whose country also fell out of favour because of expressed preferences for illiberalism.

Before the start of the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Malta on Friday (April 28th), in which what is to be done with Turkey was the main topic, Mr Szijjártó said that with the migration deal the EU has decided to leave its security in the hands of Turkey and the Turkish leadership. “When we need Turkey, we forget about other issues. When we’d like to bash Turkey, we forget about the migration deal”, explained the Hungarian diplomat. His Slovak colleague Miroslav Lajčák, however, disagreed. “We need to stop lying and pretending that we are believing something which we don’t believe in. Membership to the EU is about values and these

values must be underpinned by concrete steps”, he said, but refrained from answering the question whether this means ceasing the negotiations.


The debate on Turkey in the European Parliament on April 26 showed how difficult it is to resolve the dictator dilemma – whether to work with dictators in the name of strategically important issues and the democratically oriented opposition or to stop all contacts. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy) said the EU has no intention of closing the door for the Turkish people with whom the EU remains friends. He reminded Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that Europe is not an Islamophobic continent. “We have millions of citizens who are members of the Islamic faith, who enjoy every freedom to practise their religion and are not discriminated against in any way.”

Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn (Austria, EPP) believes Turkey is moving away from the EU. He said it was time to think of a new form of cooperation that would not harm Turkey or the Turkish people. The head of the largest political group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber (EPP, Germany) reiterated his position, stated numerous times in recent years, that to the EPP a full membership of Turkey is no longer a realistic option. “In 2014, we promised that Turkey has an opportunity to become a member, but I think that this promise has caused more damage than help Turkey”.

In his words, the basis of future relations with Turkey must be honesty. “[We have] to say what is possible and what is not possible. We don’t want to close the door – a customs union for example, maybe, that can be expanded. Maybe more economic cooperation, maybe we open our doors for students”, he suggested. The European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Kati Piri (Socialists and Democrats, The Netherlands), born in Hungary, also stated that Turkey could not become a member of the EU. She is, however, of the opinion that the referendum in the country has shown that democracy there is not dead. “On the contrary, despite the unfair electoral environment, the intimidation of the No campaigners and the massive control of the media by the government, half of Turkey’s population showed that they are ready to push back for the democratic future of their country. The EU must fiercely support those forces”, she said.

The leader of the conservative group, Syed Kamal (ECR, UK), too called not to turn the back on Turkey entirely. He believes the EU has to be honest with Turkey that it cannot become a member. He also explained the reasons – prejudices against the predominantly Muslim population; a territory that is mainly located in Asia; the prospect of free movement of millions of Turks; the prospect of changing the weight of votes in the EU Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament; shifting the external border of the EU to countries such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, Belgium) has called for the negotiations with Turkey to be suspended and a new proposal made. “I think that continuing this, so-called not formally suspended ‘accession’, is a cover-up that even makes it possible for some people in the Turkish authorities to further clamp down on civil society, on journalists, on the opposition, and so on”. Martina Michels (GUE/NGL, Germany) warned that ending the negotiations would isolate civil society. “Erdoğan wants to provoke a break off of the negotiations and wants to profit with that domestically”, said the Die Linke MEP. Her countrywoman of the Greens/European Free Alliance, Ska Keller, believes that dealing with Turkey cannot continue as business as usual, but attention should be paid to the 49 percent who voted “no”, despite all threats.

She also believes that deepening the customs union with Turkey is exactly what Erdoğan wants and will thus deprive the Union of a leverage instrument. Cristian Dan Preda (EPP, Romania), who is the rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressed concern about the spreading of Erdoğanism in Europe itself and especially in BiH. He said Bakir Izetbegovic, the BiH leader, sees Mr Erdoğan as a role model. To the Erdoğanists he also added the currently ruling Social Democrats in Romania.

Croatian MEP Ruža Tomašić (ECR) went even further by saying that Turkey does not belong to the same cultural and civilisation circle and therefore has no place in the EU. “Despite many being disappointed, it is not our job to shape Turkey into our measures, it is the task of its citizens”, she said. Unlike the MEPs, the ministers of foreign affairs of the 28 EU member states were far more cautious. Before the start of their meeting in Malta, most of them refused to talk publicly about future relations with Turkey. For some, human rights are important, but Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East is no less important. “Free, rule of law, democratic Turkey is dead”, announced Jean Asselborn, the long-standing Luxembourg foreign minister. According to him, the time has not yet come to decide what the future relations with Turkey will be.

Lithuanian top diplomat Linas Linkevičius firmly stated that he does not believe in the success of sanctions or pressure. It is necessary for the EU to remain committed, to talk and to listen. To Czech Foreign Minister Zaorálek, the only red line is the introduction of the death penalty. Everything else can be swallowed in the name of strategic interests.

The negotiations are dead! Long live the negotiations!

Foreign ministers came out with a rather vague message after their meeting in Malta. High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini (Italy, Socialists and Democrats) has announced that the negotiations have not been suspended, but there is no work on the opening of new negotiating chapters. At the same time, she reminded that the accession criteria are very clear and Turkey is also well acquainted with them. “If Turkey is interested in accession negotiations – as Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu told us today and I understand President Erdoğan expressed the same views in recent hours – if Turkey is interested in accession negotiations, it knows very well what it implies, especially in the field of human rights, rule of law, democracy, fundamental freedoms including media freedom, obviously the death penalty, and the respect of international law and the principle of good neighbourly relations”, were the words of Ms Mogherini.

She added that these are the principles on the basis of which a country is named a candidate for EU membership. The work on visa liberalisation also remains open and with an unexpected ending. On this issue, Ms Mogherini spoke evasively, saying that a way to go

on needs to be found. With this position, which is not yet formal for the EU as informal meetings do not produce official positions, the Union has actually passed the ball to Turkey.

Under EU law, in order for a country to become a candidate state it must meet the following political criteria: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities. With their actions after the failed coup attempt of last year, the Turkish government has shown that it does not meet any of these criteria. This is also clearly shown in the European Commission report on Turkey’s progress (or rather regress) towards EU membership. The reinstatement of the Council of Europe’s monitoring of Turkey is also a clear sign that Turkey is no longer eligible for EU candidate status.

Despite the assurances, which Ms Mogherini quoted, Reuters reported that the Turkish president has set an ultimatum for the EU – either to open new negotiating chapters, or Turkey will say “goodbye” to the bloc. He said this during the ceremony of his return to the ruling AK party, despite his post being non-partisan.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

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Politicising anti-Semitism: the USA’s and UK’s flawed definition


Theresa May's gift to the pro-Isreali lobby

By Lawrence Davidson

The “working definition”

“Back in the day,” which in this case was 8 February 2007, the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism adopted a “working definition” of anti-Semitism which included the following point: It is anti-Semitic to “deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour)”. The whole definition, including the quoted sentence, did not originate with the State Department. It was originally “written collaboratively by a small group of non-governmental organisations” which remained unnamed.

This “working definition” has proved to have staying power. Thus, the US Congress has used the State Department document in devising its Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, and in December 2016 the British government adopted an almost identical “working definition”, which listed the same alleged act of denial – the one that links the Jewish people’s “right of self-determination” with the “claim that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour” as an example of “contemporary anti-Semitism”.

There is something not quite right about this aspect of the “working definition”. The two parts of the quoted sentence don’t really go together logically. Thus, labelling Israel as it presently exists as a “racist endeavour” does not “deny the Jewish people their right of self-determination”. It only asserts that self-determination carried forth in a racist manner, by Jews or anyone else, is illegitimate.

Although neither the State Department’s nor the UK government’s taking up of this “working definition” is not legally binding on non-governmental individuals or organisations (a fact not widely publicised), it has allowed both US and British Zionists to label critics of Israel as anti-Semites in what appears to be a semi-official way, and this has opened the floodgates for a growing number of actions by colleges, universities, civic groups and the like to ban conferences, student organisations and speakers who would condemn Israeli behaviour and support Palestinian rights.

Subsequently, the respected British jurist Hugh Tomlinson has come out with an opinion on this “working definition” which finds it flawed, and the UK government’s assertion of it legally unenforceable.

A flawed assumption

The assertion that criticism of Israel is an act of anti-Semitism relies on the assumption that, because Israel describes itself as “a Jewish state”, it represents all Jews. This exaggeration, in turn, seems reasonable due to a broader tendency, most prevalent in the democratic West, to confuse governments and the people they claim authority over. Americans and most Europeans live in democracies and vote for their governments in relatively honest elections. So, aren’t they in some way to be identified with the policies of their governments? The claim can be no more than partially true. Maybe an argument can be made for those who actually voted for the policymakers in a politically aware fashion. But what of the those who did not vote for them? Or how about those who did not vote at all? How about those who do not reside within the country that claims them?

It is interesting to note that this identification of specific groups with specific governments is rarely made by those living in dictatorships and states with rigged elections. In those places the population knows that their wishes have no relation to policy. Often their assumption is that the same sort of disconnect is a really a worldwide phenomenon. So, for instance, if you go to Iran, Iranians will usually tell you that they heartily dislike the US government and, at the same time, really like the American people. No one believes that the two things, government and people, are really the same thing.

When it comes to populations that are spread out beyond one particular state, the exaggeration becomes even more obvious. Thus, can the Buddhist government of Sri Lanka claim the loyalty of Nepalese Buddhists for their horrible war against the Tamils? Should the ethnic Chinese living in San Francisco be expected to support the expansionist policies of the Chinese government in Tibet?

Common sense tells us that it is a gross exaggeration to identify specific ethnic or religious groups with the policies of specific governments, even democratic ones. Yet as we have seen above, in one ongoing case, that of the Jews and Israel, the argument is being pushed very strongly – to the point where laws are being considered to mandate just such an identification.

Israel de-civilises

Since the inception of the the state of Israel, one Israeli government after the other has insisted that the Israeli state officially represents every last Jew on the planet – thus conflating nationality and religious identity. The fabricated nature of this claim has become more obvious as Israeli behaviour and culture has grown ever more racist and the policies of its governments more blatantly in violation of international law and the norms of human and civil rights.

While much of the rest of the world has strived to increase diversity and tolerance, Israel and a small number of other states (such as Myanmar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) go about practising official discrimination, segregation and expulsion. As they do so, they inevitably produce cultures that those who support human and civil rights can only describe as ugly and deformed. As a consequence, more and more Jews have responded by disassociating themselves with Zionist Israel.

What then has been the response of the Israeli government? It is, essentially, to spit in the face of Jews supportive of human rights. The Israelis seek to force the issue by using their influence and that of Zionist lobby surrogates to push for new laws in key foreign lands, such as the US and the UK, to make criticism of the Israeli state legally synonymous with anti-Semitism. The US and British adoption of the suspect portion of the “working definition” of anti-Semitism cited here is a step in this direction, and a consequence of Zionist pressure.


It should be noted that Israel and its supporters, being the “deep thinkers” they aren’t, have created an reductio ad absurdum situation. To wit, anyone who publicly condemns Israeli human rights violations (that is Israeli racist acts) must be anti-Semitic (racist) – even if they happen to be Jewish. That is what you get when you pursue particularistic expediency over the general logic of tolerance and humanitarianism.

One can ask how it is that American and British, as well as other politicians and law makers, who are themselves part of cultures that are even now seeking to overcome racism, can buy into such an illogical argument?

Their doing so seems to be an expression of the electoral marketplace. Politicians need money to survive in their chosen career. As long as it does not cost them an overwhelming number of votes, they will sell their support to high bidders. And, no one bids higher than the Zionists.

This means that democratic politics is most often not a principled activity. It can be idealised, of course, but as long as it is dependent on incessant fund-raising, it will be corrupt in practice. That is why the Zionists can easily arrange for most Western politicians to selectively suppress free speech in their own countries and support racism in Israel.

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