The overwhelming popularity of the EU project among average Turks in 2003-2004 made it possible for Erdogan's government to undertake a series of far-reaching political changes. The overall affect of these reforms was the development of a more open and democratic Turkey and a much diminished capacity for the military to meddle in politics. Indeed, by the end of 2004 when the EU commission recommended that membership negotiations with Ankara begin the following calendar year, Turkey was firmly on a liberal, democratic trajectory.
Just as the European Union was decisive in spurring Turkish reform a few years ago, Brussels is currently contributing to a return of some old and bad habits in Ankara. Over the last year, Turkey's effort to join the Union has run into a number of obstacles. Some, like Turkey's unwillingness to honor its EU commitments when it comes to relations with the Republic of Cyprus and Europe's ongoing concerns about freedom of expression, are legitimate.(...)
The consequence of European opposition to Turkey's accession is a precipitous decline in support for Union membership among Turks. In 2004, some 77 percent of Turkey's population favored taking the necessary steps to join Europe, now only 30 percent do so. Candidate countries often exhibit a drop in public enthusiasm for EU membership when their populations confront the reality of both abdicating some sovereignty to Brussels and the hard task of conforming to the Union's laws, decrees, and norms. The fact that Europe's opposition to Turkish membership is based on religious and cultural factors only accentuates this problem.
In Turkey, the negative signals from Europe and subsequent steep fall off in support for EU membership have provided the generals with room to maneuver in the political arena.
While in 2004 it was complicated to apply significant pressure on Erdogan due to the popularity of his EU reforms, the calculations of the commanders have changed as Turkey's relations with Europe have cooled. With the prospect of Union membership seemingly in doubt, Turkey's top officers have shrewdly determined that they have little to lose by playing politics. (...)
Nota: Foi hoje anunciado que o PM Tayyip Erdogan não se candidatará ao cargo de presidente, tendo o seu partido escolhido o Ministro dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Abdullah Gul, para o cargo. Embora a escolha seja mais pacífica, ainda existem algumas dúvidas se o candidato não colocará em causa os valores seculares da Turquia. A acompanhar com atenção.