On the eve of the EU Copenhagen Summit, human rights seem to be playing the key role in determining Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. One can argue that this issue only confirms a historical trend. Over the past 200 years of modernization, Europe has been the prime catalyst in Turkey's quest for democratization and human rights. However, although Turkey has moved closer to Europe in the last two decades, its record on human rights continued to pose a problem, mainly due to Ankara’s realpolitik approach, marked by concessions on paper with a view to serve State interests rather than freedoms granted for their own sake. Nevertheless, even though these steps have been mainly oriented towards accomodation with Western values, they have gradually created a political environment wherein civil society can inject some momentum to the state policies, irrespective of external factors. The implementation of rights, however, has always lagged behind legislation, and the Turkish Government is faced again with the task of gaining credibility over its recent comprehensive reform package by implementing it integrally and rapidly. This essay attempts to sketch the itinerary of Turkey-EU relations as regards the human rights factor.
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