Whatever Turkey is today, it is not a vital American ally, regional force for stability, valued partner against ISIS, model Muslim democracy, or the many other positive things it has been called. Most recently, Erdogan charged that Washington has been helping the Islamic State, hardly a friendly act when the U.S. has been leading the coalition against that very movement, which threatens Middle Eastern states, including Turkey, far more than it does America.
Donald Trump obviously doesn’t plan to emphasize human rights as a foreign policy issue. Nevertheless, he should be concerned about a supposed ally which simultaneously abandons the West and destroys democracy. Turkey is changing in dramatic ways to America’s great disadvantage.
The European Commission recently completed its latest report on Turkish progress toward meeting the EU’s entry criteria. A decade ago the majority of Turks probably wanted to join the organization. That strong support appears to have dissipated some time ago. Certainly President Erdogan has lost whatever interest he might have once had.
Nevertheless, the EU is primed to generate reams of useless reports, such as this one. Whether Turkish “Transport policy” and “Regional policy and the coordination of structural instruments” measure up to European standards don’t much matter. Turkey ain’t going to meet the overall membership criteria. It won’t be invited to join the EU. If it seemed to get close, the vetoes would come fast and furious, starting with Cyprus and Greece, since Ankara still effectively occupies a portion of the former, going back to the 1974 invasion.
But that doesn’t mean the EU’s efforts don’t sometime have some unintended, ancillary value. For instance, the report’s authors helpfully detail how Turkey is moving away from Western values. Noting the post‐coup purge, the report cited the EU’s advice, which had been completely ignored: “[A]ny allegation of wrongdoing should be established via transparent procedures in all individual cases. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the full independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial, including through effective access to a lawyer. Turkey should ensure that any measure is taken only to the extent strictly required to the exigencies of the situation and in all cases stands the test of necessity and proportionality.”
The European Commission also noted “Serious allegations of human rights violations and disproportionate use of force by the security forces in the south‐east were increasingly reported. Many elected representatives and municipal executives in the south‐east were suspended, removed from their duties, or arrested under terrorism‐related charges, some of them on the basis of decrees.” Civil society representatives “including human rights defenders, have been detained and there were credible claims of intimidation. A large number of organizations were closed.”
Regarding the judicial system, “there has been backsliding in the past year, in particular with regard to the independence of the judiciary.” Restraints on all manner of government powers were loosened. Judicial employees were removed and their assets frozen. Pre‐trial detention was established. In the “very extensive suspensions, dismissals and arrests,” after the attempted coup “there were reports of serious human rights violations, including alleged widespread ill‐treatment and torture of detainees.” The report also noted “serious concerns with regard to the vagueness of the criteria applied and evidence used” and reliance on “guilt by association.”
Among the worst problems: