Şentop had a meeting with the President of PACE, Rik Daems in his private office at the GNAT.
Şentop told that he is pleased to host Daems at the GNAT, stating that as one of the founding bodies of the council, PACE is the cradle of parliamentary diplomacy in regards to international organizations and a roof for all its members.
Şentop said, “We must preserve PACE’s legitimacy and credibility on the basis of our common values” and told that he has been following the work of PACE with appreciation, in order to keep itself active and efficient despite the consequences of the pandemic.
Şentop indicated that a huge crisis was resolved with the return of Russia to PACE.
Şentop stated that as a member of the Council, Turkey makes significant contributions to strengthening its role in Europe and increasing its visibility and continued his words accordingly:
“Our country has a great share in the establishment of PACE and making it active. As a country that is located in a difficult geography while being fully aware of the importance and value of neighborhood policy, which is conducted smoothly, we have managed to include neighborhood policy in the European Council’s cooperation tools acquis. We hope to actualize this more effectively at the dimension of PACE. Our delegation has always had a strong presence within PACE and it will continue to do so. Under the roof of PACE, our MPs take part in several important studies that pursue the common good of the great European family with a population of over 800 million. However, as you are aware, with the alterations in the bylaw rules, it was decided that political groups which fail to meet specific conditions under the roof of PACE must automatically dissolve. Therefore, some of our MPs are almost retained from their activities. Because of this decision, a siginificant number of our delegation members do not have political party groups at PACE.
Our MPs who are unable to join political party groups, can not attend various committee meetings, become rapporteurs or contribute to the Assembly’s work. We expect your personal effort and support in order to resolve this issue urgently.”
Şentop told that he received the invitation letter of the Conference of Speakers of European Parliaments that is planned to be organized this year, “I hope that our Greek counterparts who used the expression ‘200th Anniversary of the Greek revolution’ in the letter would not make this conference an instrument against Turkey.”
Şentop emphasized that Turkey is determined to proceed with PACE’s control process and stated the following:
“This aim is among the top priorities of our political reform agenda. We expect you to support our efforts within PACE and evaluate our work from a perspective that is objective. PACE is being abused by politically driven initiatives of some circles with intentions targeting our country. Criticism towards our country is unjust and intentional. Prepared reports and various statements overstepped the limit of criticism. There has been unacceptable statements that were made in an online event where Turkish Co-Rapporteurs attended, in regards to excluding PKK from the list of terrorist organizations.”
Şentop stressed that there could be heated debates under PACE’s roof, however, parliamentarians must always treat each other with respect and kindness and must take this into consideration in their statements, “Unless PACE restrains hate speeches within itself whilst running a no-hate campaign, it will lose its credibility and reliability. We expect you to evaluate this subject sensitively.”
Şentop told that required alterations were made in the bylaw rules of PACE in the context of “Subsidiary Common Procedure” which was created to be consulted as a last resort if a member state seriously violates its responsibilities generating from the Status of the Council of Europe. Şentop stated that some segments in PACE are trying to use the “Subsidiary Common Procedure” as a new control mechanism to serve for their political purposes.
Şentop emphasized that using the procedure as an element of oppression on several countries with a double standard approach is against the dialogue and reconciliation culture of the Council of Europe and that their sensitivities about this would be noted.
Speaker Şentop, indicated that FETÖ’s coup attempt on July 15 not only disregarded the nation’s will but also attacked the common values built by the Council of Europe that are shared by 47 countries.
Şentop reminded that Thorbjorn Jagland, the then Secretary General of the Council of Europe was the first international persona who visited Turkey right after the coup attempt, however they were not able to observe the same solidarity from most of their European friends.
Şentop stated that there has been attempts of FETÖ regarding penetrating PACE whereas the Vaclav Havel prize was given to a FETÖ member in 2017, hence relations not with only PACE but also with the Council of Europe were seriously damaged.
Şentop pointed out that FETÖ is also a threat throughout Europe and made a call saying, “Let’s not let the terrorists and sympathizers exploit our values and platforms under the pretence of law, freedom of speech and democracy.”
Şentop indicated that Human Rights Action Plan declared by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a manifestation of the will of reform stating that the action plan which was prepared by taking the nation’s needs and requests into consideration, is the consequence of a broad based negotiation process.
Şentop reminded that the Turkish Muslim minorities in Western Thrace have been exposed to discriminatory treatment of Greek authorities for decades, like denial of their Turkish identities, deprivation of their religious and educational rights despite the bilateral and international treaties signed with Greece. Şentop said Greece was penalized three times with a violation decision taken by the European Court of Human Rights for banning Turkish minorities’ associations because they used the expression “Turkish” in their names.
Şentop explained that Greek authorities have not been implementing court decisions for more than a decade despite the warnings of the Committee of Ministers and that this issue was discussed during the meeting of the Committee of Commissioners of the Council of Europe held on March 9-11.
Şentop told that at the meeting, Greece was issued a warning in regards to taking concrete steps in terms of executing decisions until the next meeting of the Committee of Commissioners which will be held on June 8-10, otherwise preparation of an interim decision was considered appropriate.
Şentop also pointed out the fact that Greek authorities also violate freedom of religion by not recognizing mufti’s elected by minorities and despite 5 resolutions of the European Court of Human Rights against Greece for violating Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, mufti’s were still being suppressed through various investigations and legal processes.
Şentop pointed out that Greek authorities have been closing minorities’ primary schools systematically by using the lack of number of students as an excuse, “Within this context, the number of Turkish minorities’ primary schools have decreased by 50% (from 231 to 115) within the last 25 years. Requests of opening new kindergartens and secondary schools are left unanswered systematically by Greek authorities. We expect your attention and support to the work of the Council of Europe and PACE in terms of bringing the issues of Turkish minorities in Western Thrace into agenda.”
Speaker Şentop said racism and Islamophobia have spread amongst European countries in general, especially in Western Europe and Scandinavia and stated the following:
“Discriminatory pactices and institutional racism based on intensified anti-Turkey feelings with increasing xenophobia and islamophobia towards Muslims in employment, education and social life affect the Turkish society negatively. We have been drawing our European friends’ attention to our discomfort about this time and again. However, we are fully aware that our calls and concerns are not taken into consideration enough. Statements that are marginalized and that ostracize specific parts of the society create an environment for racist attacks.”
Şentop told that xenophobic attacks on the Turkish society in western European countries have increased significantly stating that the number of acts that are not reflected on the records of our Foreign Ministry were 97 in 2018, 2019 in 125 and 214 in 2020.
Şentop told that there were 52 attacks on mosques in 2019, despite the pandemic, the number of cases climbed up to 121 in 2020 and there has been 21 attacks to date in 2021, of which 13 targeted mosques.
Speaker Şentop, pointed out the fact that actual numbers are much higher, hence most of the victims do not report racist and discriminatory cases that they experience in their daily lives.
Şentop emphasized that increasing racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and populism shakes basic values and democratic institutions of Europe from deep within and indicated that societies must be sensitive, careful and cautious against discrimination, racism and xenophobia during a period where societies need solidarity more than ever.
Şentop said politicians and the media must be more sensitive and show stronger reactions to statements which use racist and xenopobic language:
“Other than racist acts, there has been other developments in various European countries in the last two years that might affect Turkish Muslim society negatively. We have been following with concern the legislative work especially in Western European countries, mainly in France, Netherlands, Denmark and Austria that might prevent Muslim Turkish society from living their religion freely. We urge our European friends to show necessary sensitivity to related legislative work and endorse integrative studies instead of preventive ones.”
Şentop told that they have welcomed the decision of Secretary General of the Council of Europe regarding appointing a special representative in relation to countering anti-semitic, anti-Muslim and other types of religious intolerance and hate crimes within the Council of Europe for the first time and emphasized that they expect the Council of Europe to adopt a determined attitude about these issues whilst xenophobia, racism, discrimination and hate speeches are increasing in Europe.
Speaker Şentop, pointed out that Turkey’s EU membership is still a strategic objective, “I’d like to underline the fact that protecting and reinforcing Turkey’s orientation towards EU would be in favor of everyone.”
Şentop told that the EU Summit held in December opened a window of opportunity for creating a constructive agenda in terms of Turkey-EU relations and that it must be put to good use through taking mutual steps:
“Turkey has proved that it is ready to work with this objective. It has done its part in decreasing the tension and making it permanent. We are concerned that achieved acceleration could be harmed due to binding of the positive agenda to conditions and postponing till the next Summit in June in the framework of decisions adopted at the EU Summit held on March 25-26 2021. All the elements of the positive agenda are essentially present in March 18 Agreement. We expect the agreement to be updated with all its elements in light of changing conditions and newly emerging challenges. Unfortunately, EU has been ignoring comprehensive content of the agreement and it is being selective in the fields of cooperation. We have accelerated our reform agenda in the recent period. It is our just expectation for our reform efforts to be supported by the Union.”
Rik Daems, President of PACE thanked Şentop for bringing these matters to the table and for his invitation.
Daems mentioned the significance of his visit to Turkey, “Because, Turkey is a very important member of the Council of Europe. As you have also mentioned, you are one of the first countries that joined the Council of Europe, you are even one of the founding members of the Council of Europe and founder of the Council’s principles. I am very pleased to be here. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Speaker Mustafa Şentop and Rik Daems visited bombed areas of the GNAT during the treacherous coup attempt on July 15 and Speaker Şentop gave information. Daems and Şentop laid carnations to the bombed area.
Afterwards, Şentop and Daems entered the Plenary Hall of the GNAT.