EM Germany Secretary-General in Istanbul: Continuing the Dialogue with Turkey
For decades, ratings for press freedom in Turkey have been among the worst in Europe, even if one doesn’t count in the recent imprisonment of WELT correspondent Deniz Yücel. The European Movement is convinced that in Turkey and all European countries pluralism, democracy and human rights must be guaranteed and strengthened.
„Since 1948, rule of law, democracy, pluralism and transparency are the core values of the European Movement. We will continue our mission for present and future members of the EU.“ This was the message, EM Germany (EBD) Secretary-General Bernd Hüttemann – also in his position as Vice President of European Movement International – carried to Istanbul in difficult times.
The EBD sister organization European Movement Turkey (Türkiye – Avrupa Birliği Derneği) had invited to a discussion about the EU in the Istanbul headquarters of the Turkish Association of Industrialists and Businessmen. TÜSİAD is the Turkish sister organization of the EMCDDA member BDI. „Especially in these difficult times, it is important to continue the dialogue with the social forces in Turkey,“ emphasized Hüttemann. A decline in tourist numbers by 40 percent and an overall depressing mood due to the ongoing state of emergency characterize Istanbul in February 2017. The stagnation of the EU accession negotiations as well as the controversial Turkey-EU deal are overshadowing an optimistic perspective of pro-European forces.
Despite this situation, the need to talk seems to be strong: Nearly hundred guests, representing companies, think tanks, foundations, universities, as well as diplomats, including several consuls-generals, mirrored the existing great interest in the debate about European public policy. They all sought answers to the enormous Turkish-European challenges.
Hüttemann’s presentation centered the values for which the European Movement had fought since its founding, 69 years ago. The European Movement is older than the European Union, and even older than the Council of Europe, which included Turkey, but not Germany, as a founding member.
In the debate, the state of the European Union was deplored again and again. In fact – in addition to the state of Turkish democracy itself – challenges such as the financial crisis, Brexit, or the emergence of extremist tendencies within the EU, call into question Turkey’s accession process. The refugee challenge also weighs on EU-Turkey relations. Hüttemann depicted that the EU must use the accession negotiations to implement the core of the Copenhagen criteria – democracy and human rights, in Turkey. However, Hüttemann also remarked: „If you distribute homework, you should be able to solve it yourself with flying colors! And not all EU Member States can do this at the moment.“