EU fails Turks struggling for democracy, rule of law - journalist Can Dündar

The European Union sees Turkey as a soldier of the West’s interests and as a market place to sell goods and therefore is failing to more effectively support Turks who are struggling for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, journalist Can Dündar said on Wednesday.

Dündar’s comments came during a panel in the European Parliament on Turkey-EU relations, in which the other speakers, though underlining the backslide in Turkish democracy, emphasised the importance of maintaining dialogue and moving forward in relations with steps like the renewal of the migrant deal and modernisation of the Customs Union agreement.

“Turkey has been always seen as a soldier in the NATO. We have always defended the interests of the West in the East,” said Dündar. “And Turkey is a good market in which the EU sells its goods.”

“Whenever someone talks to me about strategic partnership, whenever someone talks to me about trade partnership, I feel a bit sad,” the journalist said, referring to suggestions inside the bloc for redesigning the relationships with Turkey.

“Because for us the European Union meant democracy. It meant the rule of law. It meant equality between the sexes. It meant the freedom of the press,” Dündar said. “Unfortunately, we do not hear about these concepts anymore. All we hear about is migration, interests, trade agreements.”

“Will you support the democratic struggle in Turkey or won’t you? Will you continue to see Turkey as a market place where you can sell your weapons or will you join us in our struggle for democracy, for human rights, for rule of law? That is the question you must answer now.” Dündar said as a concluding remark.

Amanda Paul, a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre, said the EU had made a false promise to Turkey for full membership when it had recognised Turkey as a candidate country 20 years ago.

“I do not see any possible change, at least in the short term,” Paul said in relation to the domestic situation in Turkey. “That does not mean that things cannot change in the longer term.”

The analyst said the EU lacked a common vision about what sort of relations it wanted with Turkey, adding that the relations had been trapped in a vicious cycle. 

“You know, the European Union does not want to say to Turkey that we do not want you as a candidate country,” she said, adding that Ankara’s contradictory messages on its intentions about EU membership had also complicated the situation.

The accessions talks between Turkey and Europe started in 2005 but have been effectively frozen since 2016. 

Dündar now lives in exile as he is the subject of numerous legal proceedings in Turkey on charges of espionage, aiding a terrorist organisation, attempting to topple the government and revealing state secrets.