EU voices fears for the future of Turkey following attempted military coup

Veteran foreign affairs MEP Richard Howitt warns of potential 'bloody crackdown' against opponents of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Supporters of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waving flags | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 Jul 2016

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to cleanse the Turkish state of dissidents after the arrest of at least 6000 people, including 29 of the country's top generals. The short but bloody coup attempt left more than 300 dead.

EU representatives, including MEPs, were quick to respond to the botched coup, with UK Socialist deputy Richard Howitt, a member of the European Parliament's EU-Turkey joint parliamentary committee, saying, "The events show those who said that democracy was entrenched in Turkey and that there would never be another coup attempt, have been proven wrong.

"The pictures of Erdoğan appealing to his supporters through 'Face Time' on a smart phone made this a very twenty-first century coup."


Howitt, Socialist and Democrat group foreign affairs coordinator in the European Parliament, added, "Clearly it is right for the international community to express concern about the loss of life and to call for calm.


"But it is important to recognise that it comes after the violent repression of the Gezi Park protests, the arrest of journalists and the virtual state of siege imposed by Turkey against Kurdish communities in the South-East, as well as the terrible terrorist attack in Istanbul itself.


"It is democracy in Turkey that should be supported internationally much more than its government, which has done much to contribute to anti-democratic tendencies itself.

"I now fear that the bloody events may lead to a bloody crackdown against them. Once again we have seen inflammatory rhetoric from Erdoğan calling the coup attempt 'God's Gift' and the danger is that its suppression will embolden him and be 'God's gift' to authoritarianism."



Howitt added, "The booing to the tanks on the street by supporters loyal to the government have been some of the most memorable pictures of the night and it was quickly clear that there was no unity amongst the security forces behind the coup attempt."

Further comment came from S&D group leader in the Parliament Gianni Pittella, who called on the Turkish government to "reflect on how far democracy has been undermined in the country."

The Italian member said, "Any coup attempt against democracy must be condemned. In the name of democracy no one can carry out anti-democratic actions like firing at parliament and shooting at civilians. The change of power should ultimately only take place through democratic elections.

"It must be clear, however, that our severe judgement of Erdoğan, who is responsible for anti-democratic tendencies against political opponents, freedom of the media and human rights; remains unchanged.

"EU relations with Turkey must be based on the respect for fundamental rights and the full stabilisation of the political and democratic situation".

Centre right European People's Party (EPP) group leader Manfred Weber reiterated his "full support" for democratic institutions of Turkey, adding, "In these difficult hours, a government is at its strongest if it firmly upholds the very values and principles for which it is under attack. Democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers and fundamental freedoms must be defended.

"The Turkish government must now refrain from actions that would lead the country further away from Europe. The citizens of both Turkey and the EU have every interest in a close partnership in fields such as economic growth and migration," added the German member.



Greens/EFA group co-president Rebecca Harms said she was "shocked" by the events in Turkey, saying, "Although the background to the coup remains unknown, a military coup is clearly incompatible with democratic objectives. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and hope for an immediate end to the escalation and senseless bloodshed.

"The growing polarisation of Turkish society, which was even more in evidence [over the weekend] poses a huge threat and is destabilising Turkey. We call on all parties and in particular President Erdoğan and the majority AKP party to avoid action that could further increase the divisions."

Her colleague Philippe Lamberts added, "The fact that all the Turkish opposition parties have distanced themselves from the violent actions of the military sends a strong signal. The only way for a return to stability in Turkey is for Erdoğan and the AKP to respect the outcome of the latest democratic elections and uphold democratic principles such as the rights of the opposition parties along with freedom of the press and a right to a fair trial.

"Bringing back the death penalty for the leader of the attempted coup would constitute a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

"It would be disastrous for all Turkish citizens if Erdoğan were to use the events of the last few days to further consolidate his own powers and position. EU leaders and NATO must ensure they use their influence on the Turkish president and government to try to prevent this."

The EU's High Representative Federica Mogherini "condemned" the coup attempt and said she was closely monitoring events in Turkey.

The foreign affairs chief called for an end "to the use of violence and for continued restraint and responsibility to be shown by the police and security forces to prevent further casualties."

Mogherini said there was a need for a "swift return to Turkey's constitutional order with its checks and balances."



European neighbourhood policy and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said that Erdoğan's crackdown "is exactly what we feared", arguing that the Turkish president appeared to have had prepared his arrest lists in advance. "That the lists are available already...indicates that this was prepared and at a certain moment should be used".

Other political figures gave their reactions as they arrived for a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Brussels on Monday.

French foreign minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, "condemned" the "putsch", but warned Erdoğan of becoming even more "authoritarian".

"We must be vigilant that Turkish authorities don't put in place a political system which turns against democracy", he said.

At the start of the ministers' meeting, Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders said: "My message today is that now is not the time to create more divisions in Turkish society but to unite on the basis of rule of law".

Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn, meanwhile, said there was a danger Turkey-EU relations could be "destroyed" if Erdoğan goes too far.

Turkey has pledged to stop migrants travelling en masse to Europe in return for political support and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals. Turkey is also a Nato member with the second largest number of soldiers in the alliance after the US.

The EU meeting on Monday will also discuss the attack in Nice, France, that claimed 84 lives. It will be the first time that the UK's Boris Johnson, who campaigned fiercely for Britain to leave the EU, will meet his EU counterparts.

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