Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker criticised the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in front of his Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and a packed pressroom today (18 March), at the end of a two-day summit which adopted join EU-Turkish decisions to stem the migrant crisis.
Just hours before the summit ended, Erdoğan said in the western province of Çanakkale, that Europe was “dancing in a minefield” by directly or indirectly supporting “terror” groups.
The Belgian government allowed supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to pitch tents before the Turkey-EU summit in Brussels near the EU council building, Erdoğan said, as quoted by the daily Hurriyet.
“These [countries] are not honest, not sincere and they are acing ambivalently,” Erdoğan said. “Whom are you deceiving? Be honest, be sincere. There is no Turkey or Turkish nation who will be deceived. The name of this is surrendering to terror. These [countries] surrendered to terror.”
“I’m once more calling on the countries which directly or indirectly lend support to terror organisations: You are nursing a viper in your bosom. That viper you have been nourishing can bite you at any time,” he added.
Since the tone of Davutoğlu speaking to the press was much more constructive and friendly, Chris Morris of the BBC asked “which one we should believe, the Prime Minister or the President”.
Good cop, bad cop
“Reality has different faces”, Davutoğlu answered. One of them, he said, was the leadership of the EU countries and of Turkey who wanted together to find a solution to the refugee crisis.
“President Erdoğan addressed another reality, another face of the reality, with some Europeans who want to prevent the refugees from coming to Europe”, he said.
Davutoğlu added that he won’t name the country, but said that its leader said that “Muslims do not have any place in Europe”. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has refused to accept other refuges except Christians, said that Muslims cannot be integrated.
The Turkish Prime Minister cited the example of a journalist kicking migrants while they were crossing the border (a female journalist from Macedonia was caught on camera doing that – she later apologised, saying she panicked).
“We will be always critical against the other face of Europe. And we will continue to do so to find the right direction,” Davutoğlu said.
He said he had thanked all the leaders of EU countries who called him after the Ankara attack of 14 March.
But he added “This is one face of the reality. Another face is a terrorist organisation who killed children, women, youngsters, 35 civilians in Ankara, […] and the same terrorist organisation, with the same flag and symbols, demonstrating in the streets of Brussels – how would you feel”, he said.
“We respect the pains of other nations. But we expect respect to our pains as well. President Erdogan raised this voice and addressed one face of reality and I am here addressing the other face of reality,” the Turkish Prime Minister said.
Tusk tried to provide an answer, but Juncker took the floor and conveyed the message that the statements by the Turkish President were offensive for Belgium.
Speaking in French, Juncker said that he had a lot of compassion for the victims of terrorism, including in Turkey.
“But if, as President of the Commission, I were to address offensive comments against every country in the periphery of Europe that deviates from normalcy, I would be busy doing that day and night. I would never stop. I think people should be careful about the sort of things they say. People should refrain from making excessive statements. With respect to the Kingdom of Belgium, there were statements that were going too far, which I reject with all my forces, because Belgium is a honourable country and a great nation”.
Davutoğlu replied that the rhetoric by Turkey should not be considered offensive.
And as he was to provide insight how his country understands the freedom of expression, he said:
“Within the framework of the freedom of expression we can express our thoughts as we please”, he said.