Is the decision to reopen the political monitoring of Turkey a signal that right-wing populism is influencing the top decision makers in the European Union?
Unfortunately none of the above. These pitiful 21 words were published on Mrs. Kati Piri's Twitter account on the fateful day when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted in favor of re-monitoring Turkey. Mrs. Piri is the rapporteur for the European Union regarding relations with Turkey, hence I have filed it as an official statement from Brussels, about what took place in Strasbourg.
That the European Union has embarked on a collision course with the Republic of Turkey is nothing new. No one can tell me any longer that shocking incidents such as forcing a Turkish Minister to leave EU soil (Dutch soil in that case) are not supported, or at least tolerated, by the highest level decision makers in the EU. Proof needed? Please refer to Kati Piri's statement.
Factually, the spring session's vote can be reported as follows: 113 in favor, 45 against and 12 abstentions. To use PACE's own words, monitoring is intended to help member states "to fulfil their promises to uphold the highest democratic and human rights standards". The Assembly represents politicians of its 47 current member states (there are six observer states, too). The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 and yes indeed, Turkey was one of its original members from August of that year onwards.
Personally I do have some valuable inside information so to speak. When I was involved with European youth and student movements I had the opportunity to participate in many meetings held at the European Youth Center and Foundation, respectively, institutions run by the Council of Europe near its official seat in Strasbourg. I was impressed by the level of tolerance, by the modern outlook which according to my generation was an outlook of overcoming political obstacles and of working together across borders. In particular East-West cooperation had become one of my fields of interest. Much more recently I was able to follow events held in Turkey and organised by the Council's Turkey Program Office.
The work of that Program Office was varied yet always intended to support Turkey as a friend, not disrespecting it as a foe. The subjects discussed were not seen as problem areas but as universal concerns, and as they are part and parcel of the Council's routine workings, naturally became issues of bi-lateral support and involvement. For example, members of the Turkish judiciary were able to look over their European colleague's shoulders on location, thanks to one such effort.
Now, it appears, it is back to political ice age. The Council is on the path of making itself obsolete, and the core values mentioned above, appear to have disappeared. If ever a country needed proactive support, a friendly hand and verbal as well as moral support, it is modern Turkey after the heinous coup attempt from last July. I am very outspoken in this regard having witnessed the coup attempt from Turkey and not from a cozy office in the Palais de l'Europe. What is this strategic nonsense to punish a member state at a time when greater support is the only logical answer? Has the Council completely lost the plot?
And could it be that what we witness in far too many EU decision making circles as well as a large number of member countries - Turkey bashing at its peak â has entered the corridors of power at the Council of Europe as well?
I dare say PACE has given in to relentless negative lobbying by EU member states that are at the same time Council of Europe member states, and negative lobbying by Kati Piri (I am singling out Piri because she is after all, the Turkey rapporteur).
In a nutshell, the story goes something like this: The AK Party came to power after a landslide victory in late 2002, and Turkey relentlessly modernised herself and became a fast-growing economic and political powerhouse. Then came the 2013 Gezi Park protests, which were used by some in the West, hoping for the democratically elected government to be toppled (a âpark coup'). Then there was the failed coup attempt from 2016, by a group of putschists that was infiltrated by terrorists in their ranks. And last but not least, the April 16 referendum on constitutional change which was approved by the Turkish population with 51.4 per cent. After every single one of these events, anti-Turkey lobbyists have hoped to turn back the clock on Turkish progress.
Call it neo-colonialism, neo-imperialism â whatever we call it the facts are indisputable. Some in Europe, whether in Strasbourg or Brussels or in other capitals, fear a strong, prosperous, influential, peaceful, successful Republic of Turkey.
The entire European political class and the elite will have to face one basic choice: continue on the way towards a more just, tolerant, outward looking Europe where religion is not used as a tool to gain populist votes, and where sidelining one democratic nation is no longer accepted, or declare itself obsolete.
By re-monitoring Turkey â PACE has intentionally, or through sheer ignorance, issued a statement to the world that says âtrying to fight terrorism is wrong'. It will send a signal to PKK, FETO and others to continue on their paths with Turkey at the frontline.
This decision has also flown right in the face of the exemplary role that Turkey has displayed with regards to handling the humanitarian crisis emanating from Syria. Turkey has been a role model for taking in refugees from Syria, but this was not mentioned.
The Council has declared Turkey's past decade and a half of modernising, invalid. Above all else, PACE has not wrongfully punished a particular political party or government, but the entire Turkish nation.
I hope that the entire Turkish nation, who is well within their rights to do so, will react as straightforward as it wishes â and speak up.