A deputy of the Greens Party in Germany, Turkish-German Özcan Mutlu, has criticized the EU for turning a blind eye to violations of freedom of the press and other fundamental freedoms in Turkey in order to avoid the effects of the Syrian refugee crisis by engaging in a dirty business deal with Ankara over the matter.
In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman on Tuesday, Mutlu stated that issues around media freedom and freedom of thought in Turkey have been put aside, along with the concerns felt by many in relation to judicial freedom in the country.
“The level of freedom of thought is very low in Turkey and the EU ignores the facts. In an atmosphere in which freedom of thought is lacking, I have high expectations of the EU to deal with these problems. As you know, the EU has certain core values which it has been built on. Several of these values are key for EU democracy. These are: freedom of thought, media freedoms and the principal of separation of powers. If there are concerns as to Turkey fulfilling these criteria when Turkey also wants to enter the union, then the EU is responsible for sharing its concerns with the Ankara administration. The union should tell Turkey that these vital values cannot be violated and ignored,” Mutlu noted.
Mutlu accused the EU, Germany and other members of the union of engaging in a dirty business deal with Turkey because of the Syrian refugee crisis, adding, “No criticism is leveled against Turkey over human rights violations. This is called a ‘double standard.’ On one hand it is observed that certain values in Turkey are trampled on, on the other hand the union prefers to ignore these violations due to the massive refugee influx it has continued to experience.”
Continuing with his comments about the current nature of Turkish-EU relations, Mutlu went on to say: “Is it possible to witness to similar things happening in the Cizre and Şırnak districts [in reference to ongoing military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Southeast of Turkey, where thousands of Kurds have been forced to leave their homes and a number of locals have been killed] in Berlin and Paris? I direct my criticism against the EU for remaining silent in the face of such severe violations. This connivance by the union is so great that the European Commission postponed the publication of its annual progress report, which included harsh criticism of human rights violations in Turkey, amid negotiations with Turkey on how to stem the flow of refugees to Europe so that the report would not influence the election results.”
The report, which was originally scheduled to be published on Oct. 14, was released on Nov. 10, days after the general election. The report expressed great concern over media freedom, freedom of expression and judicial independence in Turkey.
“After the report was published, no satisfying debate was conducted. That’s why my criticism focuses on Brussels, Berlin and Paris,” he added.
Mutlu pointed out that, in a similar vein, German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a visit to Turkey two weeks before the Nov. 1 election, an action which could have been portrayed as support for the Turkish government despite the violations in question.
‘Imprisoning journalists contradicts democratic principles’
Taking over the vigil called “Wait for Hope,” aimed at supporting the arrested Cumhuriyet editors Can Dündar and Erdem Gül in front of Silivri Prison on Monday, Mutlu’s request to meet with the two editors remained unanswered.
“One of the key principals of democracy is freedom of press and judicial independence. In this case, both have been violated. Dündar and Gül are now at the forefront, but there are over 30 other jailed journalists in Turkey, a situation that does not comply with democracy,” Mutlu concluded.