On the high-level meeting between the EU leaders and President Erdoğan

Statement by HDP’s Co-spokespersons for Foreign Affairs Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy

We have provided regular information to the international community about the policies of the Turkish government that have been undermining universal democratic values and human rights in Turkey since 2015. Midnight withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention by presidential decree and the closure case against the HDP are only the lateststeps taken to destroy the last crumbs of democracy and human rights. We are meticulously observing how the EU leaders seek to “reset” relations with Turkey with a “positive agenda” despite clearly increasing destruction of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights by the government.

As we have made clear in various international platforms, the HDP fully supports the accession of Turkey to the European Union, which will surely benefit both parties. A Turkey that adopts universal democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law will be a strong member of the EU. However, as the officials of the EU are aware, Turkey is far from being a true democratic state. On the contrary, it is a country where fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of press are violated every single day. The majority of people in the country feel unsafe;
opposition politicians, civil society representatives, human rights advocates, lawyers, doctors, journalists, academics, college students or anybody who dares to criticize the government are all labeled as terrorists or traitors and severely punished. It is a country where elected parliamentarians and mayors are kept behind bars with bogus charges, and where it is only a matter of time before others join them in prison. We call your attention to the fact that the majority of people in Turkey, who are in favor of better relations with the European Union, have nevertheless been ‘deeply concerned’ about the high-level meeting between President Erdoğan and the EU leaders as a possible lifeline of support for President Erdoğan, his ultranationalist allies, and his anti-democratic and repressive policies.

The HDP believes that Turkey-EU relations can and should improve and we are ready to assist such an effort in any way we can. We think that key issues such as the modernization of the Custom Unions must take place in parallel with improvements in the fields of human rights, rule of law, and democracy. Without some standards of democracy and rights, there can be no sustainable economic improvement in Turkey.

Despite some statements of the EU leaders after the meeting on how they value human rights and rule of law, we suspect that a predominantly economic, geopolitical and security cooperation within the transactional framework of a privileged partnership will ignore these values. And, ignoring these values would damage not only possibilities for a democratic future for Turkey, but also the EU itself as a union ignoring or fundamentally contradicting its own founding principles. We totally agree with the European Parliament Standing Rapporteur for Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor and Chair of the EU-Turkey parliamentary delegation Sergey Lagodinsky who underlined the following in their joint press statement on Mach 24th.

The message that is currently being sent to the Turkish government is wrong and dangerous: human rights and the rule of law are less relevant for the EU than geopolitical interests. This manner of communicating is seriously damaging the EU’s credibility and international image, and is conveying a disheartening message to the large proportion of pro-European and pro-democratic Turkish citizens, who still turn hopefully towards the EU… We strongly support all efforts aimed at de-escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and between the EU, its member states and Turkey, as we firmly believe in the need to have the best possible relationship with Turkey. However, and particularly because Turkey is not just a third country, but a candidate country to the EU, this cannot be pursued at any cost. Human rights and the rule of law should not be sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik. (Emphasis added.)

The peoples of Turkey deserve more than being treated as citizens of a “business partner” and every citizen deserves better standards with respect to democracy and human rights. Of course the EU should try to improve relations with Turkey, but the peoples of Turkey should not perceive the way it is done as encouragement of the policies of repression they are faced with on a daily basis. Needless to say, perception is always and already a constitutive part of the reality. We ask the EU to do more than making statements of concern, and reconsider and reposition the centrality of human rights and democracy as the key to the “positive agenda” that they want to pursue with Turkey – a candidate country.