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Turkey: A House Divided

The EU Commission's progress report deals with a polarized society and a government that takes repressive measures against citizens who assert their democratic rights.
The Gezi Park demonstrations have opened up fault lines in Turkish society.

The Gezi Park demonstrations have opened up fault lines in Turkish society.

A curious addition to the package, an amendment to the Penal Code making it a punishable offence to intervene in people’s lifestyles, was nullified a week later when a TV presenter was fired after the AKP government’s spokesman, Hüseyin Çelik, complained that her cleavage was “extreme.” The sense of outrage driving the Gezi Park protests was, in fact, directed at the government’s intervention in people’s lifestyles, in opposition to Erdogan’s avowed aim to create “a religious generation”.

On October 22 the EU’s General Affairs Council will discuss the opening of a new negotiating chapter with Turkey on regional policies; negotiations had been delayed after Turkey’s crackdown on the Gezi Park protesters. The EU’s commitment to continuing Turkish accession talks, however, is no longer matched by a corresponding interest from Turkey.

Polls indicate a waning support for EU membership — only 19% now believe Turkey will become a member — and only recently in the Turkish daily, Star, Prime Minister Erdogan’s chief adviser, Yiğit Bulut, argued that Turkey should abandon its bid, in favor of becoming a leader of “a new world order” emerging in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

In October at the Istanbul Forum, another of Erdoğan’s chief advisers, Ibrahim Kalın, dismissed the Eurocentric world vision and spoke of the conscious decision of Turkish policy makers to redefine Turkey’s strategic priorities in the 21st century. Turkey’s decision to adopt a Chinese air defense system, rather than one from another NATO partner, can be seen as a step in this new geopolitical orientation.

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