Friday

25th May 2018

Opinion

The future of European Turkey

  • 'No friend of Turkey wants to see the country descending into violence' (Photo: svenwerk)

On Saturday night (15 June), central Istanbul descended into apocalyptic scenes of unfettered violence. The police targeted tear gas, water cannons and plastic bullets at protestors, and stormed a hotel near the park, which had set up a makeshift clinic to treat children and adults caught up in the events.

Among those trapped in the hotel was the co-chair of Germany’s Green Party, Claudia Roth, who is an avid follower of Turkey’s politics, a witness to the decade of violence in the 1990s in the country’s Kurdish provinces, and politician who supported the Turkish government’s democratic reform process.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Shaken and affected by the teargas fired into the hotel lobby, she described her escape from Gezi Park, which she had visited in a show of solidarity. "We tried to flee and the police pursued us. It was like war." She added the next day that it is the peaceful protestors in Gezi Park and elsewhere, braving police violence to stand up for the democratic right to speak out, who are providing the strongest argument for advocates of the future European integration of Turkey.

Only a few hours before Roth’s initial statement on Saturday, the protestors in the Gezi Park and Taksim Square were discussing the results of a meeting of their representatives with the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan seemed to have made some concessions and accepted part of the requests of the protestors to reconsider the construction scheme on Taksim and wait for a pending court decision.

The Taksim Platform, the closest there is to a representative body of the protestors, had decided to take down the different tents of trade unions and political organisations and only leave one symbolic tent. Most protestors were getting ready for a final weekend in the park, before returning to their lives as usual. True, the prime minister had delivered a warning for the park to be cleared, but such warnings had been made before and passed without decisive action. The mood among the people in the park was to wind down the protests and consider new ways of political mobilisation. So hopeful was the spirit on Saturday that families took their children to the park to plant trees and flowers and get a sense of what has arguably been Turkey’s largest and most peaceful civil society movement ever. No one was expecting a major crackdown. They have been proven terribly wrong.

Turkey's EU minister

Should they have listened to Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s EU minister and chief negotiator? On Saturday, well before the evening raid, he not only scolded international news channels like CNN and BBC for having made a “big mistake” by reporting the protests live and accused them for having been financed by a lobby intent on “doing everything to disturb the calm in our country.” He also declared that “from now on the state will unfortunately have to consider everyone who remains there [i.e. the Gezi Park] a supporter or member of a terror organisation.”

In the last three weeks of the Turkey protests, we have already witnessed the prime minister turning to progressively belligerent rhetoric for reasons of his power-political calculus. Now it appears that the minister responsible Turkey’s European future has not only been aware of the massive police brutality that was to be unleashed on the peaceful protestors, but also that he fully endorsed it.

No European politician, no representative of any European institution will be able to meet Mr Bagis from now on, without taking into consideration his justification of the breakdown and his rhetoric confusing citizens pursuing their rights to free assembly with terrorists.

Within only a few hours, the government of Prime Minister Erdogan destroyed all hopes for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is now spreading all over the country. Yet no friend of Turkey would want to see the country descending into violence. So what remains as a possible way out of ever deepening polarisation?

In recent weeks some members of the Justice and Development Party have publicly expressed their dismay at the unfolding events and the polarising rhetoric of Erdogan. President Abdullah Gul has voiced concern too. But he has stopped short of condemning the police violence and criticizing the prime minister openly. Gul is a respected politician and enjoys considerable public sympathy. Many have praised the president’s conciliatory style of politics. The time has come for him to show statesmanship and to speak out clearly and forcefully against the abuse of power.

In particular the president should oppose the witch hunt against protestors and against the doctors and lawyers who have supported them. Such action may yet avert the country’s deterioration into further violence and polarisation. The president would also do a great service for those - Turkey’s citizens and many European friends alike - who continue to believe in a common European future.

Gerald Knaus is a chair of European Stability Initiative, Berlin. Kerem Oktem is a scholar at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations