Turkey: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in the EP Plenary on the situation of the opposition
Thank you President,
Now we jump from Nicaragua to Turkey. They are not the same thing, but this is also a timely opportunity to discuss the challenges that the opposition is facing in Turkey. But certainly, the situation in Turkey and in Nicaragua cannot be compared.
But it is our concern, the situation of the Peoples' Democratic Party, the HDP, and the situation that it has been facing since 2016, with its co-leader [Selahattin] Demirtaş remaining in prison, despite two European Court of Human Rights rulings in favour of his release.
Certainly, we are concerned by the Turkish Constitutional Court's decision to accept the revised indictment demanding the closure of the Peoples' Democratic Party, the political ban of 451 HDP politicians and the freeze of the party's bank accounts.
Closing down the second largest opposition party in Turkey would have as a consequence to ignore the rights of millions of voters that have been supporting this party candidates in the elections. This would reinforce our repeatedly voiced concerns regarding the backsliding of fundamental rights in Turkey and it will contradict Turkish authorities' stated commitment to reforms in the European perspective.
Also, I have to mention the recent attack in the Izmir province, on the building of the HDP, that cost the life of a party employee. The authorities should carry out a full investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. Disparaging campaigns against critical voices, at the end, led to unacceptable attacks of this kind that cost human lives.
Turkey is a European Union candidate country and a longstanding member of the Council of Europe, but I think that there is the need to fully respect the core democratic values, the rule of law and the freedom of political association, which are at the core of our political system. This will be important for the future of European Union-Turkey relations.
And, with the best will of keeping these relations high on our agenda and with the best prospects for Turkey being considered a candidate country and having with Turkey the best relation I raise here my voice, in this democratic fora, in order to ask for the full respect of freedom of political association in Turkey.
I am sure that this debate today will contribute to raise this voice of the European Parliamentarians that feel concerned about the situation in Turkey.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-208727
Señora presidenta, muchas gracias a todos los intervinientes por sus palabras.
Look, certainly the fight against terrorism cannot be used to silence dissenting voices. We can agree on that, in Turkey and everywhere else. But, at the same time, we have to recognise that Turkey is a state with a multiparty system, an elected Parliament and an elected President. And a candidate country [of the EU] with all the obligations that this entails.
We hope that Turkey will honour its international human rights commitments, stay true to its European perspective and demonstrate with tangible actions respect to the rule of law, to fundamental rights and the basic tenets of a multiparty democracy.
I think that we can agree on that and have a balanced approach to the situation in Turkey. To raise our voice if we have concerns, to be demanding, requiring, but not to make analogies with things that happen in other countries, which - unhappily for them - are not comparable.
One specific thing that has been raised by several Members [of Parliament] is: “How can you still continue funding Turkey? How can you be prepared to give more money to Turkey?” I think that you are referring to the funding for refugees and, certainly, I think that we will have to continue supporting the refugees that are being hosted in Turkey’s territory. Our support to these refugees is a sign of solidarity and it is also an investment in our stability. There are millions of refugees in Turkey and there may be more if the border [with Syria] in Idlib is getting to be closed. Let us hope that this is not going to happen.
These refugees will need support, will require support, for some time to come. And their needs have become more acute in the face of the COVID-19 and its economic impact.
Remember that we have organised here in Brussels, the V. Brussels Syria Conference and the international community has been showing solidarity with the Syrian refugees. We will have to continue showing this solidarity offering a package with a regional coverage. Not only with Turkey, but also with Lebanon and Jordan, because there are a lot of basic needs on education and healthcare that will remain priorities and the European funding will continue being directed to give better opportunities to these people.
I do not think that there is a contradiction between expressing concerns about some issues that happen in Turkey and that worry us, and at the same time, continue having a dialogue with Turkey about how can we support the burden that these millions of refugees represent for the Turkish authorities and for the Turkish society. That is why the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen], the President of the Council [Charles Michel] and myself, are engaged by a mandate from the European Council to try to look on how can we develop this assistance. How can we talk with Turkey about different issues related with stability and security in the Eastern Mediterranean. One thing can perfectly go with the other.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-208729