PM of Turkey versus CoE Assembly «Amazons» and old stager «militan»!
Council of Europe standards ‘a guiding light’ for Turkey, pledges Prime Minister
Addressing PACE today, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told parliamentarians: “Turkey is an inseperable part of Europe”. He said Turkey saw the Council of Europe as one of its main partners in bringing about future reforms, and declared that the Council’s standards – including those of the European Convention – constituted a “guiding light” for Turkey.
The Prime Minister also spoke about his country’s commitment to hosting refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, pointing out Turkey was now hosting the highest number of refugees of any country in the world: “Our country is open to these people and, more importantly, our hearts are open to these people.” The recent EU-Turkey deal was reducing the numbers crossing the Mediterranean by sea and could save lives, he pointed out, but a permanent solution would involve tackling the root causes of the conflict.
On terrorism, Mr Davutoğlu made an appeal for victims of terror attacks to be treated equally: “We should not discriminate between those who lose their lives to terrorism – our reaction should be the same.” He also urged support for the Council of Europe’s new protocol on “foreign fighters”. [Source]
Address by Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of Turkey
In Europe we are going through a period in which we are facing problems that will affect our imminent, near and distant future. Therefore, any steps we take and anything we say in this period will affect multiple dynamics in the short and medium term. Whenever Turkey and the EU have acted together with a vision for a common future, regional and global issues have been resolved more rapidly and the EU has become more efficient in global politics.
Today is special, because I am the first Turkish Prime Minister to address you in Turkish. Turkish has become one of the working languages of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, so our language will be used as a working language in the Chamber and in committees of the Council of Europe. I thank all my friends who made that possible. The Turkish people are an inseparable part of Europe and Turkish is one of the oldest European languages.
We have a saying in Turkish, which is, “Friends always tell the truth, no matter how painful it is.” Criticism is a mark of friendship and, since we are friends, we criticise each other and explicitly express right and wrong. I would like to talk about our global problems openly and with that understanding.
Five years ago, I addressed you in my capacity as a foreign minister and shared my views on the need to construct a common vision for the future of Europe. I still remember that day. I have reminisced with the Secretary General, Mr Jagland, that at that time the Arab Spring had just started and there was such excitement. We paid a visit to Tunisia, where we were taking responsibility for neighbourhood policies as head of the Committee of Ministers. We were well aware of the problems and risks and had some concerns. It is five years since then, so we now have to sit down and make an assessment.
Extremism and xenophobia
I wish I could have made a speech with a more positive note today, following those five years. I wish I could say we are now living in a Europe that is stronger, more free and more prosperous, where extremism and xenophobia have been dealt with and where there is no discrimination on the grounds of religion, language, ethnicity or race, and people live in peace together, with all individuals and groups enjoying fundamental rights and freedoms, terrorism has been eradicated, and there is a fight against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The situation is worse today, and we see that discrimination and intolerance is rising in European societies. The ongoing repercussions and effects of the economic crisis, and some mass migration flows, unfortunately push Governments to seek remedies in strict and protectionist policies. This climate provides a conducive environment for xenophobia and racist tendencies. Muslims, migrants and Roma people unfortunately become the primary victims of discrimination. Some political tendencies that associate those groups with unemployment, poverty, crime and insecurity unfortunately find support in Europe. Such approaches damage the spirit of Europe and contrast with European values such as equality, democracy and the rule of law.
We have once again seen the magnitude of terrorism with the latest attacks in Paris, Istanbul, Ankara and Brussels. Turkey has always advocated that global measures should be taken against global issues, and global sensitivities must be applied. We are of the same opinion today. We believe that sensitivity to and reaction to terrorist attacks in Europe are very important and valuable, but we expect to see the same sensitivity and reaction to terror attacks in Turkey. No justification can legitimise different approaches to terrorist acts. If we think there should be a common reaction against terrorism, we should not discriminate between people who lose their lives as a result of terrorist attacks on the grounds of political tendencies, cultures, sects or religions. This is not rhetoric: it is the stance that is required by European values and the prospect of a common future. In this framework, we have to act in unison in the face of the threat of terrorism.
There are still loopholes in Europe’s legal area, and some of our demands have not had a response. For example, we have not had any significant progress in the European Union joining the European Convention on Human Rights. We see that Europe cannot overcome crises such as Crimea, Nagorno-Karabakh, Southern Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria. These remain the fault lines in Europe, and Turkey feels the effect of the deep crises in a couple of countries on its borders. Turkey therefore attaches great importance to the resolution of these crises within the framework of international law.
Today, Europe faces the biggest mass migration flow in its history. According to UNHCR data, in the world today 230 million people are migrants, and 70 million of them have refugee status. Those data unfortunately put Europe and the rest of the world to a new test. I am proud to say that Turkey hosts the highest number of refugees in the world. Syrians are coming to provinces like Kilis and settling there, and we have seen no protests against refugees, Arabs or Syrians. That is a humane stance that we can be proud of. Extending a helping hand to people who are escaping from a crisis is a common responsibility for all mankind. It is both a moral and political responsibility. Globalisation has a hold in every walk of life and we have to legitimise and globalise justice and freedom: otherwise, we cannot talk about justice, freedom or security anywhere in the world.
Throughout the six years of crisis in Syria, Turkey has adopted an open-door policy as a result of its humane and moral responsibilities. I have repeated this on many other platforms. Our door is open to these people, our country is open to these people and, more importantly, our hearts are open to these people and will remain so. We will take this approach in future, too. According to UN data, Turkey has the highest number of refugees in the world. At the moment, we are hosting 2.7 million Syrian brothers and sisters, and almost 300 000 Iraqi and other nationals. We have not seen any inkling of alienation or xenophobia in those years, and that is why I reiterate that I am proud of my people. I extend my deepest gratitude and appreciation to the 78 million Turkish citizens.
I find it strange that there is some maltreatment of Syrian refugees and migrants in Europe, although they are few in number. Some 270 000 Syrian brothers and sisters are staying in camps in Turkey. Their food, education and health requirements are met by our government. Those staying outside camps have temporary protection status, and their health and education requirements are also met by the government – free of charge to them. We all have to be aware of the risk of a lost generation. We have to think about our moral responsibility, the political dimension and the possible problems inherited by future generations. In the last four and a half years, 152 000 Syrian babies were born in Turkey. They have only ever lived in Turkey and have never seen their own country. We give priority to the education of Syrian children in Turkey and provide education opportunities to 78 707 children in shelters in our country. The schooling rate is 90%. We also provide education to 200 000 Syrian children outside shelters, which corresponds to a schooling rate of 35% but, unfortunately, the remaining 400 000 children have no access to education. We urgently need new schools, classrooms and teachers.
To date, we have spent more than $10 billion on refugees staying in camps, and the figure we have spent for all Syrians is much higher than that. However, the international contribution we received is not even $0.5 billion. Unfortunately, our friends have not assumed their responsibility in burden-sharing but I reiterate that I am not here talking about this just to be appreciated for what we have done for our Syrian brothers and sisters. I am just trying to attract attention to the magnitude and severity of the problem.
Irregular migration is another common challenge. We have taken many measures to fight against irregular migration and human smuggling. Since January 2015 alone, Turkish coastal guard boats have rescued 92 000 migrants in the Aegean. As a result of all those efforts, we managed to decrease the number of irregular migrants crossing the Aegean to 2 000 from 6 800 in 2015. In March 2016, that number went down to 860. For the first half of April, the figure is 327. However, it is obvious that Turkey’s efforts alone will not suffice to save people or to prevent scenes like that of baby Alan, who washed ashore off the Aegean.
My counterpart, the Chancellor of Germany, Ms Merkel, and I have taken some joint initiatives to support the international efforts. Displaced people need your support, especially within the context of migration. Member States should fulfil their obligations stemming from the Convention and other international instruments. You must remind those member States of their obligations. This is a political and human responsibility.
As you know, we have a deal with the European Union to fight against irregular migration flaws, and I have had the chance to meet Mr Juncker today. The deal has three main objectives: the prevention of casualties in the Aegean; to break the human smuggling network; and to convert irregular migration into legal migration through resettlement programmes. We enforced the deal as of 4 April, with the one-for-one formula. As of 4 April, we have started readmitting the irregular migrants crossing the Greek islands. On the same day, on the basis of the one-for-one formula, we started sending Syrians to Europe. With the deal, the average number of crossings has decreased from 6 800 a day to 60 a week. That is a huge achievement.
The issue of irregular migration has once again shown that Turkey and the European Union cannot be thought of separately. It goes without saying that Turkey-EU relations do not only consist of common problems; the relationship has to be seen as one of strategic integrity based on history and common values. Our negotiation process started in October 2005 and is the driving force of our relations with the EU. I reiterate that once again on this platform. If we can enforce the deal efficiently, we will achieve significant success in the Aegean in preventing irregular migration and, more importantly, we will be able to save lives, but that is not enough for a permanent solution.
First, we have to resolve the root causes of the conflict. Although this is the sixth year of the crisis in Syria, the international community is far from taking measures against mass migration flows and finding a remedy for millions of people escaping violence and persecution. To prevent mass migration waves, we must find solutions to enable those people to go back to their countries. Syria has become the centre for Daesh terrorism and radicalism, and there is an oppressive regime there. Therefore, we have always advocated a safe zone in Syria. Our main national security objective is to be neighbours with a Syria that is stable and prosperous, and that has territorial integrity. To fight against Daesh, we have to end the conflict in Syria. A new constitution and fair, free elections should take in place in Syria so that there can be a political transition there. However, as long as the Assad regime is there, that is not possible.
Turkey has been advocating the political solution in Syria in line with the Geneva declaration. From the very first day, Turkey has always been supportive of the Geneva process. In a consistent manner, we have tried to include Syrian opposition in the political process. On the other hand, regime supporters continue to hit the opposition and civilians. Despite the promises made to the Syrian opposition, the regime puts the Syrians under siege and causes them to starve. We must stop that. It is our responsibility as mankind. The international community should impose pressure on countries that have an impact on the regime, and the regime must be convinced about the need for a political process. The concrete result of the political process is the only way to eradicate Daesh in Syria. However, supporting another terrorist organisation – PYD – against Daesh is not a solution to the problem. It will only legitimise and promulgate terrorism. I remind our European friends that PKK and PYD are benefiting from the same instruments, methods and ideology, and they are two terrorist organisations that ignore human values just like Daesh.
On the other hand, there is internal strife and a socio-economic crisis in Iraq, and sectarianism is the main problem there. For sustainable peace and stability in Iraq, we must win back the people who are crushed under sectarian policies. We should have a global perspective to all the problems. The EU-Turkey relationship is not the only option to solve these problems, but it is an obligation. As I stated at the outset of my speech, we must have a common stance and attitude against terrorism, otherwise we cannot end the atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
For Turkey, the international fight against terrorism has never been an issue of mere rhetoric or academic interest. Turkey has been fighting against many aspects of terrorism, whether it is the PKK, Daesh, the KPC or al-Qaeda. One of the most important lessons we have learnt in our fight against terrorism is that you cannot overcome terrorism without international co-operation. The mechanism of the Council of Europe is a top platform in the fight against terrorism. We have some indispensable principles in our fight. First, terrorism is a threat against international peace and security. Regardless of what its motives may be, and where or by whom it may be carried out, no terrorist activity may be legitimised. Secondly, we must enhance our international co-operation based on the principle of “repatriate or try”. In addition to that, it is absolutely wrong to base terrorism on the principles of religion. Terrorism and Islam should not be seen as the same principle.
Terrorism is terrorism
Terrorism and terrorist organisations are becoming international. They now have much bigger capacities and use social media to pass on their rhetoric to young people, encouraging more young people towards violence. Turkey welcomes the work of the Council of Europe in that area and continues to support the activities of the Council of Europe. There are almost no days on which we have no acts of terrorism. Turkey is doing its utmost to solve this problem. Turkey is an active member of the global coalition against Daesh. It is also the co-chair of the working group on foreign terrorist fighters. So far, Turkey has been able to deport 3 200 people who planned to travel to Syria or Iraq, and risk analysis groups have prevented the entry of more than 2 000 people into our country. On 22 November 2015, the additional protocol on the prevention of terrorism was open for signatures. We were one of the first countries to sign up to the protocol and we aim to ratify it very soon. We hope that all member States will sign and ratify the additional protocol to exhibit their common determination to fight against terrorism.
Terrorism is terrorism. One cannot talk about the religion, culture, nationality or identity of terrorism. We can succeed against terrorism only if we adopt this rigid perspective. We cannot work on the reflexes we used to have during the Cold War. We cannot say “There are my terrorists and your terrorists and other terrorists.” No, we cannot do that. The suicide bomb attacks in Ankara in February and in March were carried out by PKK members who were trained in YPG camps in Syria. We see these bombings as identical to the bombings in Paris and Brussels. These organisations take aim at young people, old people and innocent people: they used a suicide bomber to kill innocent people. We do not see how this terrorism is any different from the terrorism of Daesh. Let me repeat: terrorism is terrorism. Regardless of who carries out acts of terrorism, we must fight against terrorism by working in solidarity, otherwise we cannot succeed.
We know exactly who the perpetrators of these crimes are and the documents that prove it have been shared with the rest of the world. Any effort to legitimise the PKK is identical to the effort to legitimise Daesh. There are campaigns in Europe to raise funds and supply arms for some of these organisations. Under these circumstances, one cannot talk about solidarity against terrorism. We are worried about terrorist activity in all parts of Europe. Some of these organisations dig trenches, build road blocks and kill civilians. The PKK is engaged in ruthless murder in Turkey. Unfortunately, the PKK is treated as a legitimate actor in certain European cities. Even in this Organisation, which puts to the fore democracy and human rights, we have witnessed attempts to remove the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations. Tolerating such organisations goes against the principles and collective social conscience of Europe. Terrorism does not call for any exceptions, ratings or qualifications. The fact that a terrorist organisation is fighting against another terrorist organisation does not justify the activities of that terrorist organisation. Nothing can justify terrorism. Justifying terrorism violates all the principles of Europe and the European Union. The Council of Europe should perhaps consider creating a platform to fight against all forms of racism and xenophobia.
Ladies and gentlemen, the crises in Europe have not been solved yet. In the past two years, following the occupation and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, human rights violations have been ongoing. Mustapha Qırımoğlu and Refat Chubarov are the leaders of the Crimean Tatars. They are not allowed to enter Crimea. The Deputy President of the Crimean Tatar Assembly, Akthem Chiygoz, has been arrested illegally. He has been kept behind bars without trial for over a year. More than 20 000 Crimean Tatars have had to leave their country because of the illegal annexation. The issue of Crimea and the Crimean Tatars needs to be kept on the international agenda. It is important that we speak out on behalf of the Crimean Tatars. International organisations and human rights organisations should work to ensure access to Crimea. We appreciate the sensitive approach towards Crimean Tatars adopted by the Council of Europe and we put a lot of emphasis on the work of the Parliamentary Assembly. We welcome Secretary General Jagland’s efforts to send a delegation to Crimea. On the initiative of the Secretary General, a report was prepared. Although the report has certain weaknesses, it has once more reaffirmed the violations of human rights on the peninsula.
There have been serious attacks on Azerbaijan. We are worried about the ceasefire violations in that region. The attacks and violations have led to the loss of life of both soldiers and civilians. The escalation of violence has once again shown that the status quo in the upper Karabakh region can no longer be maintained. The ceasefire violations have extended to the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. It is important that the international community and the co-chairs of the Minsk Group warn Armenia about its actions. It is important that we find ways to overcome the occupation of Azeri land.
The conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia need to be solved, taking into consideration the internationally acknowledged borders of Georgia. We continue to focus on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the players in the region. It is very important that we establish peace in this region. As the result of decisions taken in 1999, Georgia made commitments to the Ahiska Turks. Those commitments must be fulfilled. We hope that the Geneva negotiations will continue the success they have had in the past. Georgia made commitments in 1999 to repatriate the Ahiska Turks. We are following developments and hope the repatriation of these people will be a priority in the Council of Europe’s Georgia action plan. I express again the fact that Turkey is more than willing to give its full support to that objective.
Developments in the eastern Mediterranean have shown once more that we must find a solution to the situation in Cyprus. We need to take into consideration the interests of the two peoples on the island. It is important that we continue to support finding a just, comprehensive and permanent political solution. We give our full support to the constructive efforts of the leaders on the island. We hope that the process in 2016 will help all parties to exhibit their sincere willingness to find a solution. The negotiations and a solution to the Cyprus problem will be an important step in establishing peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean region. Finding a solution to the Cyprus issue is also in the interests of the Council of Europe.
The future of Europe will be determined by our response to the tests that Europe faces. These challenges test our basic values. We need to return to the basic values that brought us together under this roof 67 years ago. We have overcome wars based on religion. We have overcome world wars. We have been able to create a consensus, and I am sure that we will work together once more to create a just and democratic solution.
I believe that the Council of Europe has a very important mission. The Council of Europe generates standards that are common to the European legal arena. What is more, the Council of Europe also uses these standards to establish best practice in member States. We feel that this creates significant potential to increase the efficiency of international organisations. We would like to see an improvement of the efficiency of the Council of Europe. Let me reiterate the fact that Turkey continues to support the reform activities started by the Secretary General and the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as the ECHR. Our most important objective is to ensure that the Council of Europe once more establishes its central importance in Europe.
As a result of its increased importance in international relations, Turkey has strengthened its participation in the Council of Europe. Turkey has increased its contribution to the Council of Europe’s budget by €20 million. It now contributes €33 million and has become one of the biggest payers. We have increased the number of members in certain committees and Turkish has become a working language. Our main objective is to strengthen the Council of Europe’s political role. To do that, we will continue to offer our support to the Council of Europe, and we believe that the Council of Europe’s importance in Europe’s democratic processes will also be strengthened.
We believe that the Secretary General has made a wonderful proposal to organise a new summit meeting. I am glad that the Parliamentary Assembly agrees with that proposal. We also support the proposal to take up issues of democracy and security at that meeting. It is important to strengthen democratic security. Turkey supports all such international initiatives and hosts international initiatives to that end. In this critical period when we face many humanitarian crises, Istanbul has organised a world humanitarian summit, which will be held on 23 and 24 May 2016. We hope to see many participants at that summit.
Rule of law and human rights
Turkey has proven that it believes in the rule of law and human rights. These principles form the basis of peace and welfare around the world. I like to re-emphasise the fact that Turkey is committed to these principles and to these shared values. In the past 15 years, Turkey has implemented many reforms on human rights and democratisation. We now have more comprehensive constitutional rights. We now have better mechanisms to protect these rights. The Constitutional Court now allows individual applications. We have reform packages that strengthen basic rights and freedoms. Political parties now have more ways to organise at local level. Turkey’s citizens also now have more cultural rights as part of that reform process. The 1 November elections are an excellent example: 85% of the population voted and the AKP party, which I represent, came to power with 49% of the vote. I am very proud of these developments. Participation in those elections was much higher than in those in other European countries.
Right after the elections, we prepared a new government programme that focused on reforms. We have a new mechanism at the level of the deputy prime minister to co-ordinate the reforms, which are now subject to a strict schedule. We have created national legislation to protect personal data. We now ensure that personal data are protected under the strictest standards. We now have a council to ensure the data protection of individuals. We have just passed a law on human rights and equality. We now have a more comprehensive definition of discrimination that includes ethnic origin. As part of the reform process, we will soon start our work on drafting a new law on political parties.
The main objective of our political reforms is to ensure that Turkey has a new democratic and liberal constitution. In the 1980s, Turkey was subject to a constitution that was the result of a coup. We will now have a modern civil constitution – a constitution of the kind that Turkey very much deserves. As a result of the new constitution, Turkey will strengthen its position in the international area. Likewise, we are accelerating the ratification process of some Council of Europe documents. Today, Mr Çavuşoğlu signed an additional protocol that criminalises racist and xenophobic acts on computer systems.
These reforms are being carried out in Turkey despite the threat of terrorism, despite the conflicts in the region and despite the fact that Turkey is faced with severe tests as a result of the increasing number of refugees in our country. These reforms are based on the legitimate expectations of our citizens, and we see the Council of Europe as our main partner in our reform activities. We have an action plan that ensures the implementation of these reforms, which overlap with our visa liberalisation dialogue with the European Union. As in the past, our guiding light is the work and mechanism of the Council of Europe, as well as the jurisprudence of European Court of Human Rights.
Five years ago, when I was speaking at another Parliamentary Assembly meeting, I emphasised the fact that we needed to establish a joint vision for Europe. Let me re-emphasise the fact that Europe should be free of xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and economic instability. We must ensure that we refocus on being European, and we must refocus on European values. The Council of Europe is the ideal platform to fulfil this important mission, so we must all work together under this roof. We all have responsibilities that we need to carry out. If we fulfil our responsibilities and if we forget about our prejudices and try to achieve better aims, our children and grandchildren will think very highly of us. I think that this is a joint aim for us all.
Ms, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I welcome you, Prime Minister, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party. You said that we have to speak the truth between friends, and I will try to do exactly that. The European Union and Turkey have signed an agreement. You spoke a lot about it. Unfortunately, Turkey seems to have slowed down its implementation. On top of that, our old friend Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu threatened Europe yesterday with not enforcing the agreement at all. At the same time, Turkey is blocking the full deployment of NATO forces in the Aegean by making the usual unsustainable claims against Greece, thus turning the NATO operation into a failure. Therefore, will Turkey fully co-operate with Europe to fulfil and implement the agreement? Will you co-operate with NATO and agree to the full deployment of the alliance’s forces in the Aegean as planned?
Mr DAVUTOĞLU – Ms Bakoyannis, my former counterpart, this is an excellent opportunity to meet you again. You know the past of our Turkey-Greece relations very well, and you know how important our relations in the Aegean are to our bilateral relations. Turkey and Greece have established a very close relationship. My colleague Mr Tsipras and I have worked hard to overcome the challenges. What we are facing is not a tension or an issue between Greece and Turkey but a common problem.
Turkey has fulfilled all its commitments in the deal. Perhaps you have not been following closely, but none of my counterparts in the EU – the 28 EU leaders – including Mr Tsipras has ever taken the floor to criticise Turkey for shortcomings with respect to any of the clauses or provisions of the deal. In fact, all the provisions we agreed in the Turkey-EU deal, such as giving work permits to Syrian immigrants, have been put into effect. The number of crossings from Turkey to Greece has gone down to 60, and sometimes zero, people a day. This is a successful deal, and it is a package deal. Pacta sunt servanda is the core value of Europe, and we are fulfilling our commitments with regard to that value, as will the EU.
This Saturday, 23 April, Ms Merkel, Mr Timmermans and other EU colleagues will come to the border between Turkey and Syria and will take up these issues close to the heart of the problem. There are no problems or obstacles. Turkey can talk about such issues, especially since the €3 billion allocated for Syrian refugees in Turkey has not come into effect fully, but we are still there to stop babies washing ashore dead.
As for NATO, that is not our initiative. Together with Ms Merkel, we said that the differences of opinion between Greece and Turkey on the Aegean are known to us. NATO is not there to disregard our differences. All NATO operations have the support of Turkey and Greece, and they have been going very well. Turkey has not blocked anything, but according to our agreements, certain islands need to be disarmed. It is a very clear part of the deal, as well as of NATO operations, that those commitments be kept.
Ms Bakoyannis, rest assured that our close relations – relations we established when you were the foreign minister – are still intact. I ask you to support, rather than criticise, the close dialogue we are trying to establish with Greece and to use your force for peace in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
Ms ROJHAN GUSTAFSSON (Sweden, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group) – Prime minister, you began your speech mentioning human rights and democracy. Still, your government has been taking big steps away from democracy by controlling the media and social media and imprisoning journalists and prosecuting them as terrorists. The treatment of the Kurdish minority has also been brutal and oppressive. How is Turkey’s ambition of becoming a member of the European Union compatible with the democratic stagnation and totalitarian development in your country?
Mr DAVUTOĞLU – Ms Rojhan Gustafsson, I do not know how well you know Turkey or whether you have been there, but I believe that if you follow developments, you and all those who criticise our democracy will see that in the past two years we have had four elections, all of which have taken place under the observation and supervision of European organisations. Everyone was free to speak, to say whatever they wanted and to campaign however they wanted. Before the 1 November elections, all the Turkish media were able to voice their criticisms in the way they wanted. Nobody gave guidance or directions. Nobody put pressure on people.
On the contrary, three of the five top-selling newspapers in Turkey – I shall not name them – are clearly in opposition to the government. Their whole editorial policy contrasts with that of the Government. That is their right. As the prime minister, I have never commented on this or given any kind of directing views. I see that as a natural part of election campaigns. If you are following the Turkish media, you are probably aware of the kind of harsh criticism the president and I face, and there is no way you can claim that the media are controlled by certain powers.
Kurds, Arabs and people of all ethnic roots and religions – Sunnis and Alevis – are equal under Turkish law. Some years ago, Kurds were detained because they listened to Kurdish music. Today, I have tried to learn Kurdish to be able to address my Kurdish people. There are Kurdish broadcasts by the official Turkish broadcasting agencies. That has been possible under my party’s government. I spend every single weekend in cities in the south-eastern or eastern parts of Turkey, where there is still terror. Turks and Kurds work together, hand in hand, for the rule of law and democracy. There are politicians of Kurdish origin in our parliament and members of my cabinet who are Kurds. Kurds are not isolated; they are not segregated. On the contrary, since our war of liberation they have had equal rights. They have fought on equal footing, and they will continue to co-exist with us.
No one will be discriminated against or isolated because of their religious or ethnic background. We will never allow there to be any kind of restrictions. Turkey is very different from what you think or have come to believe. It is a real rule-of-law country where all citizens enjoy equal rights. If you go around Turkey, you will see that people can criticise the government. You can criticise everyone. There is a clear consciousness among the Turkish people of the need to co-exist and to live together in peace. I hope you will come and see that with your own eyes; before then, it is best not to propagate certain perceptions.
Ms OEHRI (Liechtenstein, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Given the time, I have a very short question for the prime minister. I would like him to share his view of the criticism that women are the subject of increasing oppression in Turkey. A report from Amnesty International says that some women are being imprisoned or returned to their home countries where they run the risk of torture. That contrasts with a humanitarian stand in that regard in the past. What does he say about that Amnesty International report?
Mr DAVUTOĞLU – In my speech, I said that if there were a test on humanity globally, Turkey would be the only country to pass it. Some might not appreciate that, some might not be aware of it, and some might not want to recognise it because they oppose Turkey for one reason or the other. Historically, and in the hearts of the Syrian people today, that is clear.
I referred to the Amnesty International report. Not one single Syrian has been sent back to Syria against his or her will. Certainly no Syrian women or children have been sent back against their will. Some 152 000 Syrian babies have been born in Turkey. Are we going to deport women and children that have been born in Turkey? There can be no logic to such claims. Three million Syrians are being hosted in Turkey. Are we going to withdraw our hospitality for 100 000 or 200 000 people? No way!
A Syrian group who were stopped at the Bulgarian border said they wanted to talk to me so I met them. They said: “Don’t misunderstand us, prime minister. We are not protesting against Turkey; we are protesting against Europe and the world. Turkey has opened its heart to us more than Syria did.” One man said: “My wife was pregnant and I took her to hospital. I did not have a penny in my pocket. I did not know what would happen after she gave birth. We had our baby and I asked what I should pay, and was told, ‘You have paid us with your presence. You will pay us nothing more.’” He said he did not have any money to pay for a taxi, but the hospital paid for it.
By the way, my wife is a gynaecologist. If one pregnant woman or any other woman in need is being deprived of anything in Turkey, just tell me. We will make her the queen of our hearts and give her the best we can offer. I am speaking not only as the Prime Minister of Turkey but as one of 70 million Turks who have been hosting 3 million Syrians when I say that no person in need is ever deprived of any kind of benefits. We will not let anyone touch those Syrians, let alone touch a Syrian woman. If there are any allegations, bring them to us and we will investigate them, but there is absolutely no rational basis and no truth to such claims. We have open door and open heart policies towards the Syrians.
Ms GODSKESEN (Norway, spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Dear Prime Minister, the talk is of the authorities having decided to draw up a new civilian constitution. As co-rapporteur for post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, we expect a new constitution to guarantee the separation of powers, checks and balances, and respect for fundamental values. Do you intend to co-operate with the Venice Commission to ensure that the constitution of Turkey fully complies with the Council of Europe standard?
Mr DAVUTOĞLU – Thank you very much. I discussed that in my speech. On 12 September 1980, there was a coup d’état in Turkey. All political parties were closed down and some politicians, including some who are now sitting among us, were sent to prison. Turkey’s membership of the Council of Europe was suspended. I still keep the record of the sad speech of the representative at the time who called on the Council of Europe to refrain from isolating Turkey. I now stand before you proudly as the prime minister of a European-standard democratic country. In 1980, I was a college student. The first time I voted, I voted no to the adoption of the constitution. The ballot envelopes for no votes were brown, but I was proud to vote no – I was the leader of a student movement against the coup d’état.
My ideal now is to ensure that we no longer follow the constitution from the coup d’état, and that is what will happen. Our constitutional reform will not enhance my political position. On the contrary, we want to ensure that we never have another coup d’état. That is why we want a civilian constitution that is full of freedoms. There is a spirit and a skeleton to constitutions. The spirit is fundamental human rights and liberties. No constitution that has not had that at its core has lasted, and the 1980 constitution will not last. The constitution we are planning to draft will be based on the will of the people instead of the will of the State, and the European Convention on Human Rights will be its basis. I promise you that we will not have a single article that violates or risks human rights. Our ancient culture is based on human rights and it will be included in the constitution.
The skeleton of the constitution is the structure of the government. It could be a parliamentary system or a presidential system, but the spirit is more important, because the structure does not define how authoritarian a country is – many presidential systems are democratic, and many parliamentary systems are authoritarian. The current constitution is not based on checks and balances or any other democratic system. The person who has the power must also have the responsibility. In the past, the old constitution was based on the fact that the president was completely deprived of all responsibility but had all the power, and that the prime minister had all the responsibility but no authority. We are going to have better checks and balances in the new constitution. We are open to discussing everything, but the only thing we are not going to debate is the fact that the new constitution will be based on human rights and freedoms. That is the important core. Turkey will have a constitution that is based on human rights, liberties, freedoms and democracy.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey, Spokesperson for Group of the Unified European Left) – Since July 2015, the resumption of armed conflict between the guerrilla PKK and the Turkish forces has cost the lives of 874 people, of whom 202 were children and women, and 300 were security officials. Three hundred thousand people are internally displaced. Recent EU and US reports sharply criticise your government for countless violations of the rights and freedoms of civilians during security operations. Do you still believe that Turkey is a safe country for refugees leaving the Syrian war, and is your government considering means other than war of resolving the Kurdish question and the conflict in Syria?
Mr DAVUTOĞLU – We have Mr Kürkçü, a Turkish representative of the Turkish Parliament. I wish that he had asked his question in Turkish because Turkish is a working language here. I am sure that his voters would have been more pleased if he had spoken Turkish.
First and foremost, governments have duties vis-à-vis their citizens and the most important are security and freedom. If you cannot ensure security, people cannot enjoy freedom. If you talk about human dignity, you must ensure that people live in a safe, free and prosperous environment.
Secondly, in modern societies, including those of the Council of Europe member States, we need public order. I am not talking about State authority, which implies a separation between what constitutes a State and what constitutes the people. Mr Kürkçü called the PKK guerrillas, but they are not; they are terrorists. If he had a child who had to walk along the road where the terrorists laid the mines to go to school or if his relatives were taken to hospital, wounded in a missile attack by the terrorists, or if he had been a relative of one of the people who were violently killed in Kızılay, Ankara, he would have called them heinous terrorists, not guerrillas.
In the last election, I was elected with a majority of 49.5% by my people. I promised them that there would be security everywhere in Turkey and that everyone would have their freedoms. If the DHKP/C, PKK or ISIS lay landmines on the road or have snipers on the roofs or organise suicide attacks on my citizens, it is my responsibility to stop them. Like it or not, that will continue until each citizen in Turkey feels safe and secure.
In May 2013, when we announced the settlement process, people could have laid down their arms as in the commitment made in Nowruz, but the terrorist organisation organised suicide, missile and bomb attacks, and now you ask me when I will stop the security operations. They will not be stopped until there is freedom and security everywhere in Turkey.
We can say anything in Turkey. You can use your seat in parliament to speak as you wish. Are any limits imposed on you? Your question would have been better answered if you learnt to speak and listen in Turkish. Turkey is a democratic country governed by the rule of law.
Ask any refugee from Syria: they all feel at peace in Turkish territory. You do not know how they feel. Not a single Syrian refugee feels threatened or weak in Turkey. They come to Turkey to find peace. No one can make Syria out of Turkey. Turkey will continue its fight with determination and the Turkish Government and State will last for ever. [Full text]
Filed under: Avrupa Konseyi, Başbakanlık_Prime Minister, T.B.M.M - Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Temel Hak ve Özgürlükler/Fundamental Rights, Yeni Anayasa Süreci, İç ve Dış Siyaset - Political Affairs