Sunday, May 22, 2016

Turkey - Facts and Scaremongering

A classic example of how not to discuss a sensitive and difficult issue if the way some people on both sides of the EU debate have been discussing Turkey, migration from Turkey, and whether and when Turkey might join the EU.

The first thing which has to be recognised in any such discussion is that many people on both sides of the EU debate have changed their minds about Turkey over the years, and this does not prove that they are fools, liars, hypocrites, or have elastic principles.

There is a saying often attributed to John Maynard Keyes, although there is no proof that he ever said, it, which is nevertheless a wise one:

For thirty years after Turkey's first free elections in 1950, the development of democracy in Turkey was regularly interrupted by army takeovers: the last such military coup was in 1980.

But from the election of Turgut Osal's Motherland party government in 1982, there followed a period of 20 years when power alternated as the result of elections between moderate-reformists of the centre-right, and those of the Democratic Left. While Turkish democracy in this period was by no means perfect it was still perfectly plausible for reasonable, intelligent and well-informed Western observers to view Turkey as moving in the right direction towards becoming a normal, stable democracy whose eventual membership of the EU would not present any serious difficulties for other members. Turkey also appeared to be almost the only Islamic country which had developed its' own successful version of the separation of church and state.

Even after the initial election in 2002 of the Islamist AKP (Justice and Development) party which has been in power since then, that did not at first appear to change. The AKP initially presented themselves as moderate Islamists who would govern in accordance with the principles of democracy: until 2013 the AKP was allied to Fethullah Gülen's Cemaat Movement, which presents itself as a very moderate form of Islam.

The great majority of quotes from British politicians such as David Cameron or Iain Duncan Smith supporting the accession of Turkey to the EU, date from between 1982 and 2013.

David Cameron who had previously been a very strong supporter of helping Turkey join the EU has not to my knowledge completely abandoned that position. He was very enthusiastic back in 2008 and 2010 and still supported it in 2014. However since 2013 his comments on the subject have gradually grown less optimistic both on the prospects for this and on the timescale.

The change in circumstances in 2013 began with a massive corruption scandal in which senior figures in the AKP government were arrested: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed the Cemaat movement for the accusations which he said were part of a coup attempt and accused Gülen and his supporters of being terrorists. From 2013 Erdoğan's government has regularly been accused - justifiably, in my humble opinion - of highly authoritarian and anti-democratic behaviour including a crackdown on press and social media, such as seizing opposition newspapers and taking them over, electoral fraud, demeaning the Constitution and alleged human rights violations, and has blocked access to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on numerous occasions.

Hence, for very good reasons, a lot of people who previously supported Turkish entry into the EU have changed their minds - including prominent members of both the Leave and Remain campaigns.

For the same reasons, any well informed and honest person will tell you that there is no chance of Turkey being allowed to join the EU while they behave like this.

It has been suggested by some members of the Leave campaign that in the event of  a Remain vote Britain would not be consulted about whether accession countries like Turkey could join.

This is complete and total nonsense - what US fact-checkers call a "Four Pinocchios," a statement with no basis in truth whatsoever. All members of the EU, including the UK if we stay in, would have a veto over the accession of any new member wanting to join. While Turkey is run as it is today, it is extremely likely that at least one member state would be bound to exercise such a veto.

As Damian Chalmers, professor of EU law at the London School of Economics, told the BBC here, the UK and every other member state has an effective "double veto" in that both every government has a veto (the first thing a new member needs for admission is a unanimous vote in the European Council) and every national parliament has a veto (the next thing they need is for the parliament of every existing member state to ratify the accession treaty). He added that "We are talking many, many years" before Turkey would be allowed to join the EU.

We will have some serious issues in managing our relationship with Turkey whether Britain is in or out of the EU. But let's base our approach to those issues on the facts.

Those who say that as an EU member Britain would have a veto over Turkey joining the EU are telling the truth and this is a matter, not of opinion, but of fact. Anyone who claims that we would not even be consulted in the matter is wrong.


Jim said...

Penny Mordaunt saying things like we dont have a veto on Turkey joining. is pretty much a confirmation.

For a while (using the £350m a week argument) and other silly things about bananas i have suspected that "vote leave" are actually a planted 'opposition' intended to ensure the UK remain in the EU at any cost.

Getting something as basic as the UK not having a veto over another state joining, pretty much confirms there is almost certainly foul play going on.

Chris Whiteside said...

IDS - who himself is one of the people who backed Turkey entry to the EU in the past, but back in 2005 when the situation looked a little different - attempted to defend Penny Mordaunt this morning on the Radio 4 today programme by claiming that what she was actually trying to say was that the British people would not be consulted, e.g. there would not be a referendum on Turkish accession.


I don't know what to make of it. Both sides in this referendum campaign really need to do better, and to treat both each other and the British electorate with more respect.

Jim said...

I still smell a rat, if she meant "the uk would not hold a referendum on it, it would be down to the government and then the PM to use the UK Veto" then why not just say that, something like "so it comes down to, do the British people trust the PM to use the UK Veto?"

This is an exchange from the Andrew Marr show this weekend

PM - This referendum is going to be our last chance to have a say on that, we’re not going to be consulted, or asked to vote on whether those countries should join. They are going to join, it is a matter of when.

Had that have been all then ok IDS may have held a "reasonable doubt" case, sadly it did not.

AM - Except the British government does have a veto on Turkey joining, so we don't have to let them join

PM - No, it doesn't. We are not going to be able to have a say. The british people,

AM - I thought accession was something that each country could veto if it wanted to.

PM - No. I do not think that the EU is going to keep Turkey out.

So the IDS intervention looks more to me like:

Look, I know we said rig the referendum, but come on you lot, you were not supposed to make it so obvious that Stevie Wonder could spot it from 50 miles away