Angela Merkel urges Turkey to rethink withdrawal from Istanbul Convention

Merkel used a speech to the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe to pile pressure on Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to reconsider his decision.
Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Apr 2021

Merkel told the online event on Tuesday, “We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the opening for signature of the Istanbul Convention, which sets the benchmarks for combating violence against women and domestic violence. That is why it is a matter of deep regret for me that Turkey has decided to withdraw from this Convention.”

Erdoğan issued a decree last month, annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women, triggering demonstrations by women across the country, who poured on to the streets of Turkish cities in protest.

The Convention is a legally-binding Council of Europe (CoE) treaty covering domestic violence and seeking to end legal impunity for perpetrators. It covers 34 European countries and took effect in 2014.

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly of the 47-nation CoE as part of the assembly’s spring session, Merkel said, “I would have hoped that it [Turkey] would stay, and I would urge all members of the Council of Europe who have not yet done so to sign the Convention.”

She added, “Women’s rights are human rights. Women’s rights must not be ignored, and any violation of them is a crime - and must be named as such. This is all the more important as violence against women is on the rise against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

While not directly referring to the upsurge in the Russia/Ukraine conflict Merkel also voiced concern about tensions in that part of Europe, saying, “A look at Europe’s external borders and in the East of Europe shows us that, even today, peace and security, stability and welfare cannot be taken for granted.”

The German chancellor also expressed fears about declining human rights around the world.

“Women’s rights are human rights. Women’s rights must not be ignored, and any violation of them is a crime - and must be named as such. This is all the more important as violence against women is on the rise against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic” Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

She said, “All around us we see that basic human rights, not least freedom of the media and freedom of expression, are curtailed. If we shy away from facing up to the fact that our basic rights, the centrepiece of our democratic endeavours, are being violated, that would call into question our entire European vision.”

Parliament has insisted that the European Commission applies its new rule of law mechanism against Poland and Hungary over alleged breaches of rights violations in both Member States.

Merkel said, “The rule of law is an essential pre-requisite for ordinary people’s trust and confidence in their state and in their institutions. People must be able to trust that their state will fulfil the obligations it entered into under international law and is therefore subject to international law and the courts.”

“That confidence is a pre-condition for a functioning and stable democracy. We all know that trust is fleeting, and that we must continuously work to earn the trust of our citizens.”

She also admitted that the Coronavirus pandemic has put Europe’s health and welfare systems under “massive” pressure and were “affecting our ability to co-exist.”

“This is a real litmus test for our societies. We were obliged to curtail individual freedoms in order to tackle the pandemic, and of course we had to put in place very stringent pre-conditions, but all our measures had to be properly justified; they had to be limited and they had to be proportionate,” she underlined.

Other participants in the CoE online event included European Parliament President David Sassoli and German Foreign Minister Michael Roth, representing the CoE’s Committee of Ministers.

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