EU Membership: How Do You Guarantee Democracy?


The Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey recently dropped three compositions by the Turkist pianist Fazil Say after a conflict emerged between the pianist and the Turkish government concerning the current conditions of freedom of speech in Turkey.

Fazil Say has been a “vocal critic of the government”, but the original issue seems to have developed from an incident involving Mr. Say, an atheist, and statements he made on Twitter, insulting Islam. Mr. Say received a 10 month suspended sentence and certain public officials are refusing to work with Mr. Say and have subsequently cancelled scheduled concerts.

What makes this problem particularly interesting is that Turkey is seeking European Union membership. In order to do so, however, a country must subscribe to specific EU provisions and policies. Part of the membership requirement mandates the “stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities”.

The European Union has already addressed the shortcomings of freedom of expression and in a report filed this month cited areas that need to be looked into in order to accept Turkey into the EU. Furthermore, Mr. Say sent a letter to the Turkish government speaking out against the government’s “oppression of the arts” in general.

But doesn’t Turkey have an argument here for autonomy and a right to define democracy as applies best to the values of its people? The European Union mandates “institutions guaranteeing democracy”, but what should be the threshold? Democracy is an abstract idea, and doesn’t it make sense that different countries will define it differently?

Sources: New York Times, New York Times, Aydinlik

One comment

  1. I personally believe that Turkey will never be a part of the European Union. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) continue to show an intolerance of political opposition, public protest, and critical media. They are completely out of line with what the European Union expects out of a democracy and their history shows that they are unlikely to change their ways.

    Turkey continues to have multiple violations of human rights issues which must be addressed and resolved before they should be considered to enter the EU. For instance, Turkey is known for multiple violations of human rights against the Kurds in the country. Furthermore, Turkey continues to illegally occupy one-third of The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member, and has been cited by the UN for committing multiple war crimes during its invasion in 1974.

    Although Turkey would be an excellent ally as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, its political culture and continued breach of human rights will most likely prevent Turkey to be able to enter the European Union.

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