Main opposition seeks Parliament inquiry into Turkey’s foreign policy

October 31, 2010, Sunday/ 13:07:00/ EMİNE KART
In the last two weeks, a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has presented two separate motions to Parliament seeking to open an investigation into the developments of the last eight years in the country’s foreign policy, that’s to say since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power for the first time in 2002.

Although the two motions request a parliamentary investigation commission on the country’s foreign policy listed almost a dozen of topics, the reasoning for these motions elaborated solely on only two of these topics. “The developments noted in the last eight years concerning foreign policy in Turkey show that there are negative developments in Turkey’s relations, particularly with the European Union and the US, as well as with Greece, the Greek Cypriot Republic of Southern Cyprus, Armenia, Iraq and Israel, and that these relations have not developed as expected,” Birgen Keleş, the CHP’s İstanbul deputy, said in her first motion presented to the Parliament Speaker’s Office on Oct. 19 and signed by her colleagues from the main opposition party.

Keleş apparently intended to use the official wording for the Greek Cypriot administration that is used by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, but instead used new wording by saying, “the Greek Cypriot Republic of Southern Cyprus.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry, like all the other institutions of the Republic of Turkey, refers to it as “the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus [abbreviated as GKRY],” highlighting that Ankara doesn’t recognize the Greek Cypriot-controlled ‘Republic of Cyprus’.”

“The establishment of a parliamentary investigation commission is important for examining said relations with the participation of academics from outside of Parliament and of authorities from the Foreign Ministry,” Keleş, also a member of the Turkish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said.

“Policies implemented by the government directly influence the future of the country and society. No doubt, policies may vary according to the governments and to developments noted at home and abroad. However, the presence of consistency and indispensable principles is extremely important in terms of external relations and the economy,” she said.

The second motion presented this week focuses on French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s constant objection to Turkey’s full accession into the EU, noting that statements on the issue by these leaders have been “beyond the limits of respect.”

Reasoning and concord

Although there is no direct reference in the motions to modalities of foreign policy assumed in the last eight years, which is widely labeled “pro-active,” the reasoning of the first motion says that “established and indispensable principles should not be ignored.”

The first reasoning doesn’t elaborate at all which such principles have been ignored in relations with, for example, Greece, Greek Cyprus, Iraq, Israel and the United States, while it indicates that the government has been making concessions on the rapprochement process with neighboring Armenia that has led to the deterioration of the country’s reputation in the international arena.

The reasoning for the second motion mainly focuses on the customs union agreement signed between Turkey and the EU, which came into force in 1996. It was signed in 1995 by a coalition government in which the CHP was a partner and at a time when the AK Party had not yet been formed.

“The sacrifices tolerated by Turkey for years to become a full member are extremely important and heavy. The customs union tops these [sacrifices]. Turkey, which accepted the customs union assuming that it would become a full member shortly afterwards, has entirely opened its internal market to the EU; moreover, it was obliged to make similar agreements with countries that made bilateral agreements with the EU. Turkey is the only country that shouldered liabilities of the customs union without enjoying the opportunities introduced through full membership,” Keleş, who has a master’s degree in economics, said, concluding that the establishment of a parliamentary investigation commission is particularly necessary to examine the course of affairs in Turkey-EU relations, particularly in the last 14 years, namely after the customs union went into force.

Following his election as the leader of the main opposition party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made his first official contact with top figures in the EU during a September visit to Brussels in a bid to promote his party, defining itself as a social democratic party, in the international arena.

It is no secret that the CHP has failed to act in unison on several issues since Kılıçdaroğlu’s election. Whether foreign policy will become a determining issue in an apparent split within the party is a question that needs time in order to be answered. And whether the CHP leadership will choose to explain itself and its views on foreign policy via direct contacts with its counterparts abroad -- as Kılıçdaroğlu attempted to do in Brussels -- or whether it will basically try to use foreign policy issues solely to score domestic goals is another question that remains to be answered.

Yet, given the unclear objectives of the two recent motions, it is noteworthy to remember praise for the government’s foreign policy achievements which came from a CHP deputy -- delivered not long ago in Washington. As a member of Parliament’s US caucus, the CHP’s Ankara deputy, Emrehan Halıcı, was among a parliamentary delegation that held talks with US officials in Washington in late September.

At a press conference held following the talks, Halıcı told reporters that US officials have been eager to meet with Kılıçdaroğlu, while he praised the government’s performance in external relations. In response to a question, Halıcı firstly noted that it is natural for ruling parties to be more active abroad. “It is necessary to confess that the Justice and Development Party’s contacts with the US have displayed that their relations are very strong and that they have exerted successful efforts and [it is necessary] to congratulate them. We, as the main opposition party, and I guess other main opposition parties, too, need to create and then maintain similar relations. I will convey these feelings and thoughts of mine to Mr. Chairman as well,” Halıcı concluded.


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