Friday, December 19, 2008

Turkish Reforms in a Dangerous Stall?

Observers of Turkish politics have been noting for the last few years that Turkey's reform process -- mostly spurred by the country's European Union membership process -- has basically come to a halt. Now there are concerns that beyond a stall, Turkey may actually be backsliding on the reform front. Two recent reports, both well worth reading, make this very clear.

The first, by the International Crisis Group, says the next year will find Turkey's EU membership at the "make or break" stage. The comprehensive report lays blame on both Turkey and the EU for the current state of affairs, but also warns that Ankara's reform program has gone "off course."

The second report, by Human Rights Watch, gives a sense of what can happen when reforms stall. The well-documented report takes a look at the troubling recent rise in police violence in Turkey, much of it attributed to a law passed in 2007 which gave the police broader powers to use lethal force.

The Turkish government had promised 2008 would be the "Year of the EU," but then had to back off that promise when they were forced to deal with numerous domestic fires. Now we are being told that 2009 will be the new "Year of the EU," although only after local elections in March. We'll see. As these two reports make clear, though, waiting much longer to get the reform process back on track could be quite costly.

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