Gauck voiced an increasing feeling in EU, says EU ambassador

The new head of the EU delegation to Turkey said the issues raised by German President Joachim Gauck, who criticized measures taken by the Turkish government against the media and judiciary last week, are a part of concerns in the European Union as to whether the reforms in Turkey are on the right path.

“If we look [at the remarks of the German president] from the EU perspective, I can say that the issues brought to the agenda by the German president are a part of concerns in the EU whether the reforms are proceeding on the right path or not. This is the utterance of a feeling that is increasing in the EU,” Ambassador Stefano Manservisi said in his remarks to the Hurriyet daily published on Monday.

Paying a visit to Turkey last week, German President Gauck questioned Turkey’s democracy and criticized the Turkish government for censoring the Internet, controlling the judiciary and granting wide powers to its intelligence agency.

Gauck said in his speech at the Middle East Technical University (ODTU) last Monday that he is “horrified” about the negative developments in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later lashed out at German President Gauck for his criticism of the Turkish government, saying that he does not act like a statesman probably because he still thinks of himself as a pastor and that he should keep his advice to himself.

The senior European Commission official also said that the aim of the EU has been to make Turkey a member state since the start of the accession process and not judging Turkey; however, Turkey misunderstands the EU’s position and is starting to criticize the EU for its warnings. He said: “Sorry, but no. We agreed with Turkey on this working method at the outset [of the negotiation process].”

Manservisi said the recent laws passed in Turkey raise concerns in the EU. However, he said constant remarks bashing the EU raise more question marks than the legislation itself. He urged that there is a certain limit to bashing the EU and if that limit is exceeded, the situation may become very dangerous.

The ambassador also talked of the corruption scandal that hit Turkey’s agenda on Dec. 17 with a wave of high-profile detentions, including former ministers and Erdogan’s inner circle. He said corruption allegations are not only circulating in Turkey but also underlined that the way Turkey is investigating these allegations is vital.

“The important thing for the EU is to see the judiciary shed light on these allegations… For these allegations a credible investigation should be launched… We want to see the results of this process,” he noted.

The EU ambassador to Turkey said the EU’s only parameter is the “rule of law” regarding the process after Dec. 17. The issue is whether the system is reliable or not, and there are concerns on the instability that changes on three to four laws created, he stated.

In the weeks following the eruption of the corruption scandal, the government took a set of controversial measures to fight what Erdogan called a “parallel structure” within the state. The government introduced a number of controversial laws, including the law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which critics say undermines the separation of powers and the rule of law, granting the government’s Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) the power to block any website for privacy violations without permission from a court and a law on the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), which gives extraordinary powers to MIT.

Manservisi also commented on the allegations on the suspension of Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU, saying the situation hasn’t reached that level yet. He stated the EU cannot halt accession talks with Turkey due to some critical voices from several powerful EU countries and underlined the fact that decision of European Council is needed for such a suspension.

He said it is a big mistake to perceive a European politician’s remarks as “the whole of Europe thinks this.”

After the eruption of the corruption scandal, the spokesperson for Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union Party (CSU) federal parliament coalition, Michael Stubgen, the general secretary of the German Christian Social Union (CSU), Andreas Scheuer, and the vice-chairman of the Liberal Group in the EP, German MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, called on the EU to suspend Turkey’s EU accession negotiations.


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