JEF Europe condemns Turkey’s authoritarian turn and re-affirms its commitment to support democratic civil society
According to unofficial results, Turkey has abolished its existing parliamentary system in favour of a presidential system with strong executive powers with yesterday’s referendum. This marks a new low point in the ongoing deterioration of democratic quality in Turkey over the past years, accelerated after the attempted coup last summer and the following purges. The transpartisan youth NGO JEF Europe has repeatedly criticised the repression of critical media, NGOs and political opposition in Turkey as well as the restrictions on free speech and free academic research. Unfortunately, also the campaign for yesterday’s referendum was not conducted in the spirit of free and fair elections. We are furthermore concerned about the amount of reported inconsistencies during campaigning and voting. The space for debate was restricted as the majority of Turkey’s media landscape is biased in the government’s favour following e.g. the detention of hundreds of journalists. In addition, the “No” campaigners regularly faced legal obstacles, individual threats and intimidation as well as arbitrary arrests on terrorism charges. JEF Europe deplores this further step towards authoritarian rule in Turkey.
As long-standing advocates of a European future for a free and democratic Turkey, together with our partners in Turkey, this development is particularly painful to Young European Federalists across the Union and beyond. We continue to believe in Turkey’s European future and we will continue to organise for the re-building of democracy in Turkey.
We are convinced, however, that this latest turn towards authoritarianism, on top of the indiscriminate purge hitting the foundations of Turkish democracy after the attempted coup – the judiciary, prosecutors’ office, police forces, the media, the civil service, trade unions, education and the health care system – requires a re-thinking of the European Union’s strategy vis-à-vis Turkey.
The European Union needs to keep the political dialogue alive with the Turkish government but base its actions on a coherent foreign policy strategy for its future relations with Turkey, based on the values of the European treaties. The country can only make progress in the accession negotiations if its government respects human rights and minimum criteria of democratic governance. JEF Europe acknowledges that the lacklustre support for a Turkish accession to the EU and highly contradictory statements from EU leaders on this matters over decades have eroded public support for an accession and for democratic reforms in Turkey. In return, this underlines the importance of having clear policy objectives in the EU’s foreign affairs and accession policies which can only be realised by defining those policies on the European level rather than leaving it to be abused in national electoral agendas.
We call on the EU to firmly stand up for the respect of human rights and the rule of law in Turkey as well as in its own foreign policies. We therefore demand that the EU-Turkey deal is to be replaced with a dignified migration policy as required by international law. The humane treatment of migrants in accordance with the international protection regime in the name of the European Union cannot be left to the hands of an authoritarian government disrespecting human rights even in the treatment of its own citizens.
JEF Europe re-affirms its solidarity with Turkish civil society committed to democratic values, human rights and a European path for Turkey. We are looking forward to continuing our common battle for those values in the EU and beyond.
 OSCE, Preliminary Conclusions. www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/311726