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MHP stresses harmonizing Turkey’s EU perspective with national interests June 1, 2011

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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According to a deputy from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), his party is actually a supporter of Turkey’s membership in the European Union and what matters is harmonizing the candidate country’s membership perspective with Turkey’s national interests.

MHP Antalya deputy Yusuf Ziya İrbeç, who is running again in the June 12 parliamentary elections to represent the Mediterranean coastal city, underlined that not only is the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supportive of Turkey’s EU bid, but both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the MHP display a supportive stance on the EU bid, too.

“What is essential here is harmonizing Turkey’s national interests and EU perspective with each other. Exactly on this point, it is important for the two sides [Turkey and the EU] to have a view that is based on mutual respect and that is free of prejudice,” İrbeç said in a written statement in response to questions from Today’s Zaman. “Turkey’s EU perspective is not a relationship which can be solely seen as under the monopoly of a political party which is in power for a certain period of time,” he added.

Although the foundations of ongoing relations between Turkey and the EU were laid in the early 1960s, Turkey has encountered a prejudiced approach throughout the course of its membership process, İrbeç suggested, when reminded of the serious deadlock in Turkey-EU relations in regards to the opening of chapters and asked how this deadlock could be overcome. “In today’s Turkey, even at a time when Turkey already has a customs union agreement with the EU and at a time when full membership negotiations have been underway between Ankara and Brussels, the issue of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens has been unable to reach a fair resolution yet,” İrbeç, a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, went to say.

“Similarly, the openings of a lot of negotiation chapters have been delayed by the use of the Cyprus issue as a pretext. On the other hand, the EU accepted the Greek Cypriot side as a full member and without having a fair and permanent resolution for the two sides of the divided island of Cyprus. Taking a position which bills Turkey for every past step that is not well calculated cannot be defined as appropriate and fair in the context of international relations. At this point, the chapters boycotted by France can be seen as an example,” İrbeç said, in an apparent reference to the fact that France is currently blocking five of the 35 negotiation chapters which it considers to directly concern accession. France, an adamant opponent of Turkey’s EU membership bid, offers “privileged partnership” in lieu of full membership.

“For maintaining the prevailing and stable relations between Turkey and the EU, our expectations of the EU assume a supportive approach to Turkey’s membership, as seen when approaching new member countries,” İrbeç underlined. “The Nationalist Movement Party has always displayed a constructive approach to fairly improving relations with the EU,” he also said.

In an apparent contradiction to what İrbeç argued regarding the stances of the CHP and MHP and although he suggested that his party has always displayed a constructive stance on the issue, in the autumn of 2008, while the government’s Third National Program for EU harmonization was met with great interest by minor political parties such the now-defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP), the Democratic Leftist Party (DSP), the Grand Unity Party (BBP) and the Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP), both the CHP and the MHP adopted an adversarial stance toward the program.

At the time, the then-foreign minister, now Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Ali Babacan, requested appointments with all parties represented in Parliament to explain the project’s reforms to party leaders, but was refused meetings by the CHP and the MHP. Then-DTP leader Ahmet Türk, then-DSP leader Zeki Sezer, late BBP leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and then-ÖDP leader Ufuk Uras, stressing the importance of the draft program, all announced that they would make contributions to the draft following their meetings with Babacan.

Back in August 2010, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christian community, Bartholomew I, conducted a service at the Sümela Monastery in Trabzon in what was the first official religious service carried out at the ancient monastery since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. In September 2010, a service was held at the Church of the Holy Cross, an Armenian church on Akdamar Island in Lake Van, near the city of Van. These events were government-supported developments that allowed non-Muslim groups to carry out religious services in historically significant places of worship.

The government had hailed the religious service on Akdamar Island as a sign of growing religious tolerance in the predominantly Muslim country as it seeks membership in the EU. In a swift response, in October 2010, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli organized a Friday prayer session in Ani, a site which hosts ruins of churches and a mosque that are part of an abandoned medieval city of the same name, located in the border city of Kars.

Bahçeli said they chose Ani because it was the first place where Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan prayed after conquering the region in 1064. About 40 MHP district branch presidents and 5,000 party members participated in the service. Friday prayers in Islam can only be carried out in the presence of a congregation. The prayers took place in the 11th-century Cathedral of Ani, which had been converted into a mosque by Alp Arslan.

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