Former Turkish PM accuses Erdoğan of steering Turkey away from EU

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Former Turkish prime minister and leader of the Gelecek [Future] Party Ahmet Davutoğlu has accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of steering Turkey away from the EU and moving it closer to China and Russia.

In an exclusive interview with the Greek Kathimerini daily published on Monday, Davutoğlu expressed concern about the direction of Turkish foreign policy.

“Mr Erdoğan now has new partners — Mr [Devlet] Bahçeli and mainly Mr [Doğu] Perinçek. We might also have maintained good relations with China in our time, but we never talked about following the Chinese model. We held up the European model as the democratic ideal. The approach used by Turkey today is constantly moving it away from the European model of democracy and government,” he said.

Bahçeli, Erdoğan’s election ally, is chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while Perinçek is leader of the ultranationalist Homeland Party (VP).

Davutoğlu, who in mid-2019 parted ways with Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and established his Future Party in December 2019, was one of the architects of Turkish foreign policy as he served as the country’s foreign minister between 2009 and 2014 and as prime minister between August 2014 and May 2016.

Turkey was officially recognized as a candidate for full membership in the European Union in 1999, with negotiations beginning in 2005.

After more than a decade of protracted talks, Ankara and Brussels negotiated a deal in the midst of an unprecedented influx of refugees to the bloc in 2016. Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from attempting the crossing from its shores to Greece, while the EU would provide funding to do so and accelerate Turkey’s accession talks. However, since then, things have stalled again as Turkey has been accused of not sticking to its part of the deal.

Davutoğlu criticized the way Erdoğan implements the country’s foreign policy, accusing him of placing personal relationships rather than principles at the basis of Turkey’s relations with other countries.

“This is how foreign policy has changed. Instead of institutional contacts and strategic horizons, there are now personal relations. Meaning that if Mr Erdoğan and Mr Putin have good relations, then our relations with Russia are also good. The same thing happened with Mr Trump and relations between Turkey and the United States. This completely removes strategy from the board, replacing it with a psychological factor,” he explained.

In the interview Davutoğlu also criticized Turkey’s switch from the parliamentary system to a presidential system of governance, a longtime dream of Erdoğan that took effect following a referendum in April 2017.

Erdoğan, who was elected president for the first time in 2014, was reelected in June 2018, the first Turkish president under the new presidential system.

According to Davutoğlu Turkey had two choices following a failed military coup in 2016: It would either build a true democracy and look out towards the world, or succumb to the prevalent mood following the coup and be led into absolutism.

“Unfortunately, despite our warnings, the president and the party leadership decided to change the political system governing Turkey. They chose a presidential system. This intrinsically changed the nature of politics in Turkey,” he said.

Under the new system, which granted Erdoğan vast powers, the Turkish president is accused of establishing one-man rule in the country and destroying the separation of powers.

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