By targeting Turkey, Europe shoots itself in the foot

THE EDITORIAL BOARD
ISTANBUL
Published 25.04.2017 20:09
Updated 25.04.2017 20:11

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted Tuesday in favor of reopening the monitoring procedures regarding Turkey, citing the state of emergency, which was declared after last summer's coup attempt. The Turkish government swiftly condemned this "unjust decision" and argued that the assembly's decision was politically-motivated and threatened to "reconsider its relations with PACE." Although the resolution appeared to be about Turkey, it was really a historic vote concerning Europe's future.

Under the pretext of defending European values and Turkish democracy, the assembly made a huge concession to racists and right-wing extremists across the continent. Having tried to ban male circumcision, a common practice among millions of European Muslims and Jews, in 2013, the enemies of European values launched a frontal attack against Turkey – an object of hate for the continent's Islamophobes. Without a question, PACE's decision to monitor Turkey took place against the backdrop of creeping right-wing extremism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe. Instead of pretending to care about Turkish democracy, European politicians ought to wake up to the fact that the enemies of the continent's values are within the walls of Fortress Europe, not outside them.

The assembly, furthermore, appears to have ignored the situation in Turkey. In recent years, the country actively fought PKK and Daesh terrorists, who claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people, and thwarted a coup d'etat intended to overthrow Turkey's democratically elected government, suspend its Constitution and impose martial law. Under the circumstances, Turkish authorities have a right and an obligation to defend their citizens against terrorism whilst striking a healthy balance between civil liberties and national security. At a time when millions of Turks turned to Europe for support against terrorism, European politicians refused to stand in solidarity with Turkey against terrorists. Instead, they made an ignorant and hostile decision that played right into the hands of terrorist groups. What makes PACE's decision worse is that it is not a novel phenomenon but part of a 30-year tradition of anti-Turkishness. This decision, which is tantamount to taking a clear stand against Turkey's efforts to defend itself, will have zero influence on Turkey's clearly maturing democracy and will only denigrate the already fragile legitimacy of PACE.

PACE's most recent decision regarding Turkey shows that European politicians reproduced the increasingly discriminatory, racist and fascist political climate in their native countries all the way in Strasbourg. Making a concession to right-wing extremists, 113 members of the assembly made a controversial decision that not only failed to make a meaningful contribution to Turkish democracy but also deepened Europe's existential crisis. Sadly enough, the Turkey-bashers in Strasbourg and elsewhere do not seem to realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot by trying to deprive the Turks of their right to defend their citizens. In the wake of the Syrian civil war, the Ankara closely cooperated with Europe to contain the violent conflict next door and to stop the influx of foreign terrorist fighters to the conflict zone. Six years on, Turkey remains Europe's only line of defense against terrorism and illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, Europe's shortsightedness could provide Turks with a golden opportunity to decouple democratization from their relations with Brussels. For years, Turkish leaders maintained that strengthening our democracy and improving our human rights record were part of a broader plan to improve the living standards of ordinary Turks as opposed to an attempt to impress the Europeans. Now is the time to prove that they meant what they said. Unless the PACE decision is overturned, Turkey must sever its ties with European institutions and suspend membership talks with the European Union. We must show the world that our democracy can thrive without the ladies and gentlemen in Strasbourg and Brussels threatening a sovereign nation.

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