New perception in the West: Turkey is distancing itself from European values
Alarming signs are coming from a series of statements issued recently by significant political personalities in Europe in terms of the change that has occurred on Turkey’s perception in the Western world. We see two themes are emerging from these statements: One is about Turkey is starting to distance itself from European values and the other one is on the weakness attributed to fighting against corruption.
The first statement is Stephan Füle’s, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, speech he delivered on April 10 at the Joint Parliamentary Commission of the European Union and Turkey. Füle said he has witnessed developments in the accession negotiations which are a cause for “concern and disappointment.”
He pointed out that new legislation transferred significant powers over the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) to the Justice Ministry, a development reversing previous reforms. He said, “The changes raise serious concerns over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and over the separation of powers in Turkey.”
Füle also stated that the massive transfers of officials “constitute a risk to the proper conduct of investigations into alleged corruption.” Also, he expressed concern over the recent ban on social media.
While the list went on, Füle summed up the situation as such: “As Commissioner for enlargement, I must admit that events over the past three months have cast doubt on Turkey’s commitment to European values and standards.”
The significance of these words of Füle is that “doubt on Turkey’s commitment to European values and standards” have been voiced for the first time by the European Commission. Even though there have been several criticizing proclamations against Turkey in the European Commission front, no doubt on Turkey’s commitment to Europe was ever witnessed.
Another important statement came from Hannes Swoboda, leader of the second biggest group in the European Parliament, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. In an interview with daily Zaman, Swoboda said they were constantly receiving news about new legal initiatives that are undermining the freedoms of Turks. He said, “I feel cheated…”
Swoboda claimed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has changed, saying, “When he became prime minister, Erdoğan was a reformist who was trying to integrate his country with the world and Europe. But now he is doing just the opposite. He is taking his country back,” he said.
The most important emphasis from Swoboda was Turkey was growing further away from the European Union and Copenhagen Criteria. European criteria, principles and values were being violated, according to Swoboda. Such a Turkey is moving away from Europe, Swoboda said, in a way, reiterating in concrete expressions what Füle voiced as “doubt.”
Another important statement has come from Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights for Council of Europe. One of the most important authorities in Europe on human rights, Muiznieks told Cansu Çamlıbel from daily Hürriyet recently that it was his opinion that “Turkey is regressing.”
Similarly, Pietro Grasso, President of the Italian Senate spoke to Murat Yetkin from Hürriyet Daily News last week, saying, “I’m not surprised that these cases of corruption in Turkey have emerged. I can say that corruption became visible; and also that there is an equally visible crackdown, not on corruption, but on those who reported corruption. The way to fight corruption cannot be to get rid of those who fight against corruption.”
As a matter of fact, there are other examples very similar to those above that can be cited. However, even this much is enough to point to a worrisome picture demonstrating that a negative opinion about Turkey is settling in Europe.