08/06/2014 - 23:00
The European Elections: Some Implications for Turkey and the Kurds

The European elections were held in the EU member states between May 23rd and 25th with shocking results for the very idea of the European Union.

Far right parties gained a considerable number of seats in the EP. In France, one of the most influential member states, Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) was the winner with 24 seats. Apart from the FN of France, other far-right parties such as the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Party of Freedom (Netherlands, PVV) and Northern League (Italy, LN) among others, also gained around 15 seats which will probably allow them to form a parliamentary group in the EP, if they can meet the condition of representation from 7 member countries. Ironically, anti-EU parties are currently in negotiations to form a group in the EU parliament with the aim of blocking any supranational decision to be imposed from European level to national levels. Along with the euro-sceptic line, they are clearly anti-immigrant parties and also against Turkey's accession to the EU which was openly stated by Marine Le Pen.

Another considerable result of these elections is the increase of left wing parties who also gained substantial power. Most notably the SYRIZA, the left coalition in Greece, and two leftist groups in Spain enlarged the GUE/NGL group in the EP. The Italian left has come back as well. They are going to be represented again by three MEPs after the "fiasco" in the 2009 elections. It seems that the austerity measures in the south and east of Europe was punished by voters. Another implication for the elections in Greece is that Tsipras, the promising leader of the SYRIZA and also GUE-NGL candidate for the European Commission, called for an early election which, if it happens, is likely to give birth to a leftist government in Greece.

The centre parties, the European Peoples' Party (EPP) and Socio-Democrats (S&D) have preserved their position in the parliament, however, they have lost an important number of seats to other parties. The EPP has over 200 MEPs and secured its place as the largest parliamentary group while the S&D follows as the second group with around 190 seats. The rest is a chaos for the moment. It is likely that the liberals (ALDE) will remain as the third party yet European conservatives and reformists (ECR) and the Greens are following them closely. The GUE NGL group is behind these three but has not lost its chance to be the 4th group in the EP. A very trying and interesting negotiation is ongoing among the national level and European level political parties however, considering the rise of the far right parties and challenging problems intra- and extra- EU, in any case, it will end up with a new and more vulnerable politics at the European level.

The rise of the far-right has several political implications for domestic and international politics of the EU, yet, I will focus on the possible patterns of European politics towards Turkey and the Kurds. It seems like the EU will be dealing with domestic problems rather than international politics. Yet, the discussions vis-a-vis Turkey and the Kurds will increasingly be treated as an argument for internal political fragmentation rather than handling it as a negotiation process for Turkey's accession.

The biggest group of the EP, the EPP has been accused of using the discourse of far right parties well before the elections by several analysts and rival parties. The idea here was that the usage of this discourse legitimises the far right parties' political position. Far-right parties will intensify their opposition against Turkey which might force the EPP to reshape its discourse in order not to lose its constituency to the far right. Within this context, more attention will be paid to the Kurdish question and human rights issues. Previously, even though Turkey's democratisation was not a concern for them, Austrian far-right FPÖ MEPs have been using the violation of human rights and the Kurdish question as an argument against Turkey which is likely to be the case for the probable far-right group. The FPÖ MEPs were the non-affiliated members who could not seriously influence EU policies due to the fact that they were regarded as extremists by most of the MEPs. However, if the far-right succeeds to form a group, they will more strongly bring these arguments into play, with the power of a parliamentary group behind them against Turkey in order firstly to block a possible accession and secondly to consolidate their constituency against other political parties. Nevertheless one must keep in mind that the far right parties' presence is not favourable either for the Europeans, for Turkey and the Kurds, anyway.

Beside this, on the other side of the coin, the S&D group is likely to adopt a new discourse vis-a-vis the challenge of the radical left. The S&D group and GUE/NGL are politically in favour of Turkey's accession. The GUE/NGL, known as the most supportive group of the Kurdish cause, gained around 50 seats and will reinforce its position both for the democratisation of Turkey and the solution of the Kurdish question. Taking into account the rise of far-right and challenge of the radical left, the S&D might reconsider its ambiguity in relation to the human rights violations in Turkey.

The formation of the new European Parliament is still a matter of negotiations which should finalise towards the end of July. Anyhow, doesn't matter what the new configuration of the parliament will be, a turbulent time is upcoming for EU policy in the international scene because of its domestic fragility. But one shouldn't underestimate the tradition of compromise in European politics which might potentially change the appearance of the game.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of