Turkish protestors in Istanbul clashed with police yesterday as protestors attempted to push through police lines and march to Taksim Square to highlight the importance of workers’ rights in the country. Turkey has a long history of labor protests, but in recent years the pro-labor marches have merged with anti-government movements. Yesterday’s May Day protests marked the first major protests since the government expanded the authority of police to detain protestors. Protestors yesterday were met with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons as police attempted to prevent them from reaching the symbolic Taksim Square.
Critics of the government contend that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engaged in repressive tactics ahead of elections in June. Erdogan’s government has enacted policies liberalizing the economy which have been widely unpopular with the left. At the same time, he is seen as socially conservative figure, and secularists have opposed his religious agenda. Such conflicts have also intensified debates over Turkey’s desire to join the European Union.
What do you think? How might Turkey’s ongoing political challenges—symbolized most dramatically by yesterday’s clashes—affect Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union? If you were an EU official, would you support Turkish membership? Why?