Turkish parliamentarian elected president of PACE
ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News | 1/25/2010 12:00:00 AM | DÖNDÜ SARIIŞIK
The first Turkish president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, in the body's 61-year history, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will look to urge EU leaders to adopt a balanced approach to Turkey. Experts say it provides significant evidence that Turkey is a part of Europe, in contrast to the attitude of the French and German leaders
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has become the first Turkish parliamentarian in history to be elected president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE.
“It provides significant evidence that Turkey is part of Europe. A Turk will head a European institution,” said Erhan Akdemir from the Ankara University European Union Research Center, or ATAUM.
After winning, Çavuşoğlu addressed parliamentarians at the council, which is an important pan-European body established in 1949. He vowed to “believe in the common values of Europe and defend them.” He said it was important to build a Europe that pays honor to diversity and sees migration as an opportunity, not a threat.
Çavuşoğlu, who was nominated by the center-right European Democrat Group, was the only candidate at Monday’s plenary session in which he replaced Luis Maria de Puig of Spain as PACE’s head for the next two years.
“Those conservatives, including [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel are against Turkey’s EU bid, arguing it is not part of [Europe],” Akdemir said in a phone interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.
Although Turkey was one of PACE’s founding members, Çavuşoğlu’s election marks the first time in history that a Turkish parliamentarian will head the body.
ATAUM recently conducted a public survey in which 1,032 people were asked their views of Turkey’s foreign affairs. When describing Turkey’s identity, 28.9 percent said Turkey was “a European country,” 22.6 percent said it was “one of the Turkic republics” and 15.5 percent said the country was “an Islamic state.”
“Such a position can be a source of motivation at home as Turkey is aiming at EU standards,” Akdemir said.
Turkey will also take over the rotating presidency of the Council of Europe's decision-making body, the Committee of Ministers, in November 2010 for a six-month period.
“I wanted to be a politician when I was a kid working on my father’s farm. But, I never imagined becoming president of PACE, which has 47 members and represents more than 800 million people,” said Çavuşoğlu.
President Abdullah Gül released a statement celebrating Çavuşoğlu’s new post, saying, “It is a significant achievement and source of pride for our country.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan phoned Çavuşoğlu to personally convey his congratulations. “It is a very important achievement. Congratulations. I wish you more success in your career,” Erdoğan told him, said Çavuşoğlu.
Çavuşoğlu who is a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, had been heading the Turkish delegation at PACE.
He later held his first press conference as president, calling on EU politicians to encourage Turkey and avoid setting politically oriented obstacles on the country.
He said the Constitution was the biggest obstacle to reforms in Turkey and vowed to exert efforts to contribute to the government’s policies with the hope of raising democratic standards.
The new president further said PACE would support the search for a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
State Minister and Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bağış and Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee President Murat Mercan were present to watch Çavuşoğlu’s victory and to hold a series of talks in Strasbourg.
[BOX] What is the Council of Europe?
Created in 1949, the Council of Europe is a political organization that aims to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law throughout Europe. Its headquarters are in Strasbourg, and its border extends beyond Europe’s geographical boundaries with 47 members, including Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The organization’s parliamentary assembly consists of 636 members from the national parliaments of its member states.
Texts or recommendations approved by the assembly provide guidelines for the Committee of Ministers, national governments and parliaments. The assembly has initiated many international treaties and helped to create a Europe-wide system of legislation.
The European Court of Human Rights is the judicial body responsible for monitoring compliance with the convention to which the member states are bound.
In addition to close relations with the EU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations, the Council of Europe has regular meetings with more than 30 international organizations.