Turks' Anger at EU Torture Report Is New Reaction to Old Problem

Turkish commentators and officials were outraged by European Union accusations that Ankara was not cracking down on torture or punishing the culprits, but Altan Oymen writes that his countrymen have shrugged off similiar EU criticism for years.

al-monitor Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues his speech after main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MPs left the debate to protest Erdogan's announced expansion of Kurdish rights, including creation of an independent body to investigate cases of torture, in Ankara, Nov. 13, 2009. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

Topics covered

torture, european union

Oct 19, 2012

After our neighbors to the south [Syria], east [Iran and Iraq], north [Russia] and the United Nations, we are now angry with the European Union.

The EU’s 2012 progress report on Turkey led to some interesting scenes in our country.

There is a Parliamentary Constitutional Commission in our assembly, headed by Burhan Kuzu, who is also a professor of constitutional law. Actually he is a nice person.

However, sometimes he can get more aggressive on certain issues than Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan.

Kuzu recently appeared on a television show and threw the EU report to the floor saying he actually wanted to throw it to the garbage bin but there wasn’t one around. He also added that since the report was a “filthy” and “despicable” one, it can only belong in a garbage bin.

The Minister of EU Affairs, Egemen Bagis, is also among those who are furious with the report.

As far as I know, he didn't use words like “filthy” or “despicable” to describe the report, yet he did use the analogy of a “broken mirror.” He blamed Cyprus, which took up presidency of EU in 2012, for the report.

While some reminded Bagis that the report was prepared by the permanent experts of the EU, who were also responsible of preparing previous reports, Bagis stuck to his view.

While government officials do their best to discredit this report, Sedat Ergin of Hurriyet made a comparison of the annual reports since 2002 when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. He shared his findings in a series of articles published in the daily Hurriyet.

His findings concluded that EU criticism of Turkey actually started to bite after 2008, beginning with [criticism of] police brutality and lack of sanctions against culprits.

In Ergin’s words: “As it can be seen that the positive perspective of the EU towards Turkey starts with 2003 and continues until 2007. As of 2008, it is possible to observe that EU criticism of Turkey started to increase. While it is acknowledged in these reports that the number of torture cases is decreasing, it is also stated that the excessive use of police power is becoming a major problem. However, the most important problem for the EU is the lack of sanctions and investigation against culprits.”

Therefore the main theme of this year's report is no different from any of those that were written after 2008. Turkey failed to accomplish the objective of combating torture.

In this sense, given that Kuzu and Bagis are furious about this year's report, they might have been mad about previous reports for the same reasons. Kuzu could have thrown the previous reports to the garbage bin also. Bagis could have said the same things about the previous reports, as well.

However, it seems that the reasons behind government officials' attitudes towards this year's report are not related to the opinions used by the EU experts with the report itself. The reactions of government spokesmen this year are not against the report itself, but are rather a continuation of their foreign policy practices this year.

They think the more they scold other countries and organizations, the bigger they become. After our neighbors to the south, east and north, as well as the UN, now apparently it is the EU’s turn.

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