Did the EU, foreign press really understand the severity of Turkey’s coup attempt?

Did the EU, foreign press really understand the severity of Turkey’s coup attempt?

A week ago today, the Turkish people woke up to a completely different country. They had all survived an unprecedented, violent coup attempt, witnessing their own army bombing their own parliament and opening fire on their own citizens. Shocking moments of the night of July 15-16 are still fresh in the minds of the Turkish people, whose recovery from ongoing trauma will surely take time.

Believed to have been orchestrated by members of the Fethullah Gülen movement within the army, from private soldiers to top generals, the coup attempt has surely started a new era in Turkey. There will be serious changes in state structure, civil-military relations and in politics.

Immediately after the terrible events that left behind at least 246 dead, the government launched an extensive investigation into the attempted coup with thousands of detentions, including of high-ranking officers, judges and prosecutors. 

In addition, a massive purge to clear the Gülenists from the state bureaucracy has begun. The estimated number of those dismissed from their positions has hit around 60,000 in just one week.

Of course, all this is not very pleasant. There are still many questions about how it could even be possible in this age and in this country. As the Turkish media, we’ll be sure to continue to ask all these questions, trying to find answers and closely following the next steps of the government. At the same time, we will be on the alert over how the government will use the extraordinary powers granted after the declaration of a state of emergency.  

It is not surprising to see intense interest from the world and from the foreign press about what is going on here. Almost all countries have issued statements during the coup attempt and in its aftermath, mostly condemning the mutiny. However, in the following days the core of the foreign media’s reporting seemingly shifted from the coup attempt itself to the government’s reaction against the plotters.

A number of leading EU figures and foreign ministers have issued strong warnings to the government – even before 48 hours had passed since the coup attempt. Urging Ankara not to abandon the principles of democracy and the rule of law, the content of their messages was right, (given the poor democratic performance of this government), but it would be better for them to maintain a more balanced approach in their rhetoric. We are now at the stage where it is unfortunate to see that the EU’s leverage on Turkey has again diminished because of unbalanced and hasty criticisms from EU officials.  

On the other hand, the Turkish government should also be very careful to not fully reject calls from the outside world. It must follow a better communication strategy to explain the measures taken at home, providing necessary assurances that democratic gains will not be reversed.

The coup attempt and its consequences should not prompt Turkey to turn inward and become more isolated from the rest of the world, which was the aim of those who planned this coup attempt. Turkey continues to be one of the most important partners of the U.S. and the EU, with a shared interest in eliminating jihadist challenges from the Middle East and elsewhere, and in stopping the flow of migrants to Europe.

It’s high time for both Turkey and its partners in the West, as well as domestic and foreign media, to be much more balanced and far-sighted. Further deterioration in ties will help neither side.