EU envoys respond to Bağış’s comparison of Turkish and EU police

EU envoys respond to Bağış’s comparison of Turkish and EU police

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
EU envoys respond to Bağış’s comparison of Turkish and EU police

EU envoys read booklets distriuted by Minister Egemen Bağış related to Gezi Park. AA photo

Comparing the Turkish police’s brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators to other countries’ police interventions is pointless and not helpful, according to EU ambassadors, who have requested "transparency and accountability" in the investigation into the Turkish police’s harsh crackdowns on civilians during the Gezi Park protests. 

In the face of harsh criticisms from the international community, the Turkish government increased its efforts to explain to the world the motives of the three-week protests, with "evidence" detailing how the protests turned violent. 

Accompanied by İbrahim Kalın, an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and top police officials, EU Minister Egemen Bağış hosted EU ambassadors at a lunch on June 25. Ambassadors were given a dossier of pictures and were shown a 15-minute recording, including footage showing used beer cans in the Dolmabahçe Mosque. 

Bağış presented other examples from European countries like Italy, Greece, Spain and Germany where police also used excessive force in dispersing protestors. However, an EU diplomat talking to the Hürriyet Daily News said making comparisons and bringing bad examples to the forefront was not helpful for Turkey to resolve this problem. “We have brought this point to the attention of Turkish officials at different levels, including at this meeting,” the diplomat stressed. 

Recalling that the police used excessive force even during peaceful demonstrations, the ambassadors also asked for "transparency" in investigating the police’s unlawful interventions. “Freedom of assembly and free media are essential elements of European values. We highlighted that these values have been violated in Turkey,” the diplomat stated.

A policeman is accused of killing a demonstrator in Ankara, while hundreds of other civilians have been injured because of tear gas canisters. 

At the lunch, the ambassadors also expressed their unease about the language used by Turkish officials in both local and international media, underlining that it was not appropriate or compatible with regard to the principle of freedom of expression. 

The ambassadors also brought up the issue of detained lawyers and doctors, and questioned some statements from Turkish government officials on restricting the use of social media. 

Bağış denied that the government had exerted pressure on the media not to cover the protests, saying such coverage was a result of self-censorship of media groups that are part of large conglomerates who were concerned that tarnishing the country’s image would negatively affect business. 

Kalın: A learning experience 

İbrahim Kalın, in his presentation, described the three-week long Gezi Park demonstrations as a "learning experience" for the government and underlined that the country’s EU vocation had not changed. 

Kalın explained the three-week long protests in the political context. “A lot of good things happened in Turkey in recent years, like the Kurdish opening, civil-military relations. What happened over the last weeks should not cast a shadow on these,” he said. 

After the meeting, Bağış told reporters that all the questions of the ambassadors had been answered. “I do not see any reason for them not to be satisfied,” he said.

While one EU ambassador present at the meeting said he had observed Bağış in a more "moderate" mood compared to previous weeks, another expressed skepticism. “The evidence presented to us was nothing new. We expect to hear more convincing statements from the government. They should stop targeting at the local and international media members,” he said.