Suat Kınıklıoğlu: Europa Europa
Turks who are putting up a brave fight confronting the authoritarianism in this country every day are simply aghast at the show put on in Brussels.
16 Mar 16

This column was originally submitted to Today’s Zaman, but was rejected by the new management. Suat Kınıklıoğlu is a Turkish politician, writer and analyst.

Ernest David Klein was a Romanian-born Canadian linguist, author and rabbi. His theory for the origins of the word “Europe” was that it derives from the ancient Sumerian and Semitic root “Ereb,” which carries the meaning of “darkness” or “descent,” a reference to the region’s western location in relation to Mesopotamia, the Levantine coast, Anatolia and the Bosporus. Thus, the term would have meant the “land of the setting of the sun,” or more generically, “Western land.” His theory has not been widely accepted, but these days there seems to be some truth to it.

In view of the “extremely pragmatic” EU-Turkey Council, which primarily wants Turkey to stem the flow of refugees from Europe at any price, the dark side of European pragmatism can be imagined. Only a few days before the summit convened, Turkey’s largest newspaper was confiscated in the latest step in the government’s efforts since 2013 to suppress the media. Turkey’s extremely fraught relationship with freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and democratic pluralism is very well known in European capitals. Of course, we understand the need to strike a deal with Ankara, but should that be associated with such a heavy price tag? What if — as many argue — visa liberalisation cannot be delivered by June 2016? Would we not have an even more serious issue vis-à-vis European credibility at hand? Is linking Syrian refugee resettlement to Turkish accession talks a wise policy? These will surely be discussed this week in Brussels, but what we have seen so far has been alarming. Perhaps there will be some revision to the position adopted in Brussels. However, the whole summit affair was bizarre.

Turks who are putting up a brave fight confronting the authoritarianism in this country every day are simply aghast at the show put on in Brussels. Turkey’s democrats have been thoroughly exposed to the crude pragmatism of the EU. What credibility can the EU have after such a summit, which is obviously designed to stem the flow of refugees at any cost? How is it possible for the EU to deal with a government that so blatantly crushes every single voice in favor of democracy, pluralism and free speech? As a recent New York Times editorial titled “Democracy’s Disintegration in Turkey” recalled, the recent crackdown on newspapers “is merely the latest of Mr. Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian moves, which have included imprisoning critics, sidelining the military and reigniting war on Kurdish separatists. He now controls much of the media and has made Turkey a leader among countries that jail journalists. Along with his campaign to wipe out a free press, his government’s prosecutors have opened nearly 2,000 cases against Turks in the last 18 months for insulting Mr. Erdogan, which is a crime”.

Worse, the deal produced in Brussels is not good for Turkey, either. Turkey is already overwhelmed by a large number of refugees. The Turkish commitment to accept all refugees entering Europe illegally is likely to make Turkey the world’s largest refugee camp. The security risks associated with that are obvious, and I am writing as someone whose hometown has been bombed twice in the last five months. The social and economic burden is self-explanatory.

We all know Turkey currently does not meet the Copenhagen criteria. Despite all these facts, the European Union put up a great show in Brussels as if everything was normal in the country with which the EU was holding a summit. Needless to say, Turkey’s democrats found this display of double-dealing profoundly distasteful and a betrayal of the values the union is supposed to be built upon.

Rest assured, the next time a European person attempts to lecture me on values, I will have a word or two in response.

Add your support to Index on Censorship’s petition to end Turkey’s crackdown on media freedom.

Turkey Uncensored is an Index on Censorship project to publish a series of articles from censored Turkish writers, artists and translators.