How not to lie in Brussels


European Union Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that senior Member of European Parliament Andrew Duff had been “bought” by the “parallel structure” — a term frequently used by government officials to describe the Hizmet movement. When Duff reminded him of his claims, Çavuşoğlu didn’t stand by his remarks, but opted to accuse the Zaman daily and the Cihan news agency of spreading lies.

Visiting Afyonkarahisar after the local polls, in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was the winner, Çavuşoğlu, who is Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, was asked about concerns voiced by EU officials. The question was asked by a reporter from the Cihan news agency, and, following in the footsteps of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Çavuşoğlu replied: “You play the song and dance to it. You have done this before. You have made some Liberal deputies [in the European Parliament] that you had a prior arrangement with say these things. You made Andrew Duff say it.” These remarks were recorded by seven TV channels and news agencies, so it is impossible to pass them off as doctored or dubbed. (For the video, see

During the dullest, lowest-profile Turkey-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) meeting ever, Duff reminded Çavuşoğlu of his remarks about him being “bought” by the so-called parallel state, asking the Turkish politician either to substantiate his claim or apologize. Duff used the word “bought,” but the report by Cihan did not include this word.

Çavuşoğlu might have chosen to take the sting out by accepting that some of his remarks might have gone beyond their purpose in a climate where Erdoğan’s self-styled advisers draw lists of “ministers who will be written off for failing to charge at the parallel state.” What he did instead was to accuse Zaman and Cihan of false reporting.

Apparently, he failed to realize that Zaman and Cihan are not part of the pro-government “pool media” — created through funds raised by various businessmen to protect the government’s interests — famous for false reports rife with lies and slander since the graft probe of Dec. 17, and that they would take care in responding to the minister’s accusations.

Responding to Duff, Çavuşoğlu said: “They said: ‘The elections are over, but the tension in Turkey continues. In particular, there is still tension between the government and the powers behind the parallel structure. Will this make a negative impact on the negotiations with the EU? A New York Times article made such an argument.’ They included your views as well.”

He remembers the wrong question. The question did not make any reference to the parallel state or Andrew Duff. Instead, Cihan had asked: “The international press praised the elections, but there were criticisms as well. US newspapers and some political party representatives in Germany specifically criticized the wording of the prime minister’s balcony speech, saying that he used a polarizing and divisive style, which meant backpedaling from Turkey’s previous achievements, and arguing that the membership negotiations with Turkey should be stopped. …”

Even without waiting for the end of the question, Çavuşoğlu responded. “Who said that the negotiations with the EU should be stopped? You play the song and dance to it. You have done this before. You have made some Liberal deputies [in the European Parliament] that you had a prior arrangement with say these things. You made Andrew Duff say it.”

Now, we go on with what Çavuşoğlu said during the JPC meeting: “And I said, ‘Andrew Duff or any Liberal deputy may nurture such a view and we respect it’.”

The difference between the two wordings is great. He never said, “We respect it.” No reference to Duff had been made in the question. Then, the Cihan reporter who asked the question said that the proposal to halt the negotiations came from Germany’s Christian Social Union (CSU). But as he didn’t listen to the question in full, Çavuşoğlu referred to Duff in his response.

What the phrases “arrangement” or “make one say something” mean is clear. There is no need to prolong the debate. But another untrue statement by Çavuşoğlu is that criticisms against Turkey come only from Liberals. I made a list of the deputies who attended my TV program, “Avrupa Masası” (European Desk), since the graft probe of Dec. 17, and saw that I had interviewed politicians from the entire political spectrum: the leader of the Socialists, the Christian Democrat rapporteur of the European Parliament, the Greens deputy who is the JPC co-chairman, and the Liberals.

Soon after Çavuşoğlu accused Zaman and Cihan of lying, Duff talked to Cihan. He was asked the following question: “Zaman and Cihan have been working in Brussels for 13 years. Did you get any impression that they have been involved in false reporting?” “Absolutely no,” he replied, adding: “Erdoğan, Çavuşoğlu and the AKP’s ministers talk abundantly about the Hizmet movement in Turkey, but they keep silent when they come to Brussels. And we try to get some statements from them. Presumably, when they come to Brussels, they realize it is shameful to seek refuge in conspiracy theories. The conspiracy theories about the Gülen movement are not credible here. They should understand it.”

Duff made similar remarks to the Hürriyet newspaper, which interviewed him later. Duff denied the possibility that the reports on Çavuşoğlu’s remarks had been in any way distorted. Indeed, these remarks were translated by the European Parliament’s translators. In his interviews with Cihan and Hürriyet, Duff clearly hinted at the identity of who is lying.