Turkey belongs to Europe, which would suffer without Turkey: Council of Europe head

Turkey belongs to Europe, which would suffer without Turkey: Council of Europe head

İpek Yezdani – ISTANBUL
Turkey belongs to Europe, which would suffer without Turkey: Council of Europe head

Turkey belongs to Europe, and if Turkey were ever to be pushed away from Europe, the continent would suffer “many more problems than it experiences today,” Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland told daily Hürriyet on Feb. 16.

“I will say to those Europeans who want to push Turkey away, if that happens, they will also see that Europe will have many more problems than we are have today. We depend on each other and we should realize that we a part of a bigger picture that everybody is dependent on,” Jagland said.

Following meetings held with nine Turkish leaders including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül on Feb. 15 in Turkey’s capital Ankara, Jagland told daily Hürriyet that the country’s European accession talks are very important for both sides.

“As I see it, Europe needs Turkey because there are so many Turks and Muslims living in European countries. Turkey could help a lot by reconciling societies that are quite divided now,” Jagland said.

“Turkey should also think and understand that having a united Europe - a legal space from the high north to the southern Caucasus - is a good thing for Turkey. Turkey being a part of this legal space is no burden. On the contrary, the fact that Turkey is a part of this wide legal space gives a certain confidence to those who want to do business in this country,” he said.

Jagland however also stressed that Turkey “has a very high number of violations of the European Convention,” which made the road to European Union membership more difficult than for other applicants. “No country in Europe has been able to accede to European Union without first acceding to the European Convention,” he noted.

Jagland said judicial processes in Turkey, especially following the failed 2016 coup attempt, should “be in line with the European Convention.” “Because if not, then there will be a flow of complaints to the European court. And it is always better for a member state to deal with the matters at home and take responsibility for the European convention at home rather than to push them over to an international court,” he said.

Jagland said he had raised the issue of media freedom during his meetings with Turkish officials on Feb. 15. “This is one of our main concerns. It existed before the attempted coup, we worked with the authorities on this before the attempted coup and it has become even more important afterwards. Because we have seen many journalists put in jail. It is important to note that the European Court has established the cases of journalists as priorities.”

Asked about Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” in the Afrin district of Syria, Jagland said: “The Council of Europe is not involved in such issues. This is for other international organizations. We strongly condemn any kind of terrorism. But we are not involved in military conflicts.”