Turkey should remove emergency rule: Economy minister

Turkey should remove emergency rule: Economy minister

It has been nearly 14 months since Turkey imposed a state of emergency after the bloody coup attempt of July 2016, in a bid to fight against the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). 

Through the vast authorities provided under the state of emergency, the government has arrested thousands of people and expelled tens of thousands of civil servants suspected of having links to FETÖ from state offices.  

Through decree laws the government has also restructured many key state institutions, abolished military schools and hospitals, and overhauled judicial bodies, in a bid to strengthen the state against potential coup attempts in the future. 

However, the use of authorities given to the government through emergency rule to widen the crackdown on opposition groups, critical media and dissidents has stirred debate both inside and outside Turkey. The arrest of critical journalists, local and foreign human rights activists and opposition lawmakers, as well as the closure of countless news outlets, have all increased concerns that the state of emergency has been used to restrict fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. 

This has become one of the major sources of tension between Turkey and its Western partners, particularly the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which have all openly called on Ankara to remove the state of emergency in order to normalize the situation in the country. 

The situation also has an effect on Turkey’s ambitions to attract foreign direct investment to continue its economic growth. 

Speaking to Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci on Sept. 26, I had the opportunity to ask him when the government plans to life emergency rule. 

“It will be removed. This is not a normal situation. We should emerge from the conditions of the state of emergency,” Zeybekci said, stressing the need for Turkey to “return to normalcy” as soon as possible. 

He emphasized that Turkey’s experiences last summer were “extraordinary,” necessitating a state of emergency in order to struggle against a terror organization that infiltrated into the heart of the state. 

“But although I myself observed this coup attempt and lived through it, I still underline that we must remove the state of emergency as soon as possible for the interest of our country,” Zeybekci added.

He also noted that a “formula can always be found” to continue measures against undercover FETÖ members, referring to provisional authorities that may be given to the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry after the removal of the state of emergency. 

Still, he also made clear that this is his personal view and had not been discussed among ministers in the cabinet. 

“It’s not easy to be the minister of a country under a state of emergency. It’s not also easy for a country to be under a state of emergency. We are making the utmost effort to keep our economy unaffected but at the end of the day people cannot ignore a state of emergency. Is it normal for Turkey? No,” Zeybekci said. 

So although Zeybekçi underlined that this was his personal view, it is still very important to hear a cabinet member touching on the need to “return to normalcy” in Turkey. A removal of the state of emergency will surely remove some international pressure on Turkey and will create a better environment for reconciliation with traditional Western partners, while also reducing political tension inside the country.

Turkey, economy, OSCE