Grassroots leader: Turkish citizens want visa-free EU travel

Murat Dinc.jpg

Turkish citizens derive much stress and frustration from the fact that they can only visit the EU with a visa, which is difficult to obtain and applications are sometimes refused, Murat Dinç, a local youth leader for Turkey's main opposition party CHP, told EURACTIV in an interview.

Murat Dinç says he wants to become a member of the Turkish parliament. He dreams of one day becoming prime minister of the Republic of Turkey.

He was speaking to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor Georgi Gotev.

As a grassroots politician from the main Turkish opposition party, what is your current activity? What do you do concretely with people in the Antalya region to convince them to support your party? Can you give some examples of activities to raise awareness about CHP policies in your constituency? Where do you think your opponents from AKP are wrong?

I am one of the youngest politicians in my party and the CHP is politics school for me. I learn here about being concerned with the needs of the people, being honest, being transparent and revolutionary. 

As you know, our founder and first leader was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. My party is active throughout the country and we are the main opposition force. We have a very important agenda for the Turkish people and we explain our programme and the solutions we offer to peoples' problems.

Our new president, Kemal Kiliçdaro?lu, is travelling across the country, explaining the CHP programme ahead of the elections to be held in 2011. Our leader will be the prime minister next year. We believe in him. We strongly support him.

At grassroots level, in the city of Antalya or in the region of Kepez, we also try to meet everybody and explain our solutions. I am sure that as we are honest and work very intensively. We will bring as we say 'beautiful life for Kepez-Antalya'. We are part of the Antalya people.

I would say that our main opponent, the ruling Justice & Development Party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (AKP), is far away from the people of Kepez. They don't talk to the citizens of Antalya. AKP takes decisions at the top and doesn't consult the local people.

Besides, the AKP is authoritarian and wants to establish their rule forever. There are huge differences between us and them on many important issues.

As one example of our projects, our women's organisation has put in place the 'Bizim Ev' [Our House] project in three quarters of Kepez. The project helps women who have never had an income to start small production businesses, become self-reliant and gain esteem and self-esteem. This project helps change lives and mentalities in Kepez. It is also a very good example for other regions of Turkey.

Another project, by our youth organisation, is called the 'Youth Parliament'. Kepez has 420,000 inhabitants, of whom over 200,000 are youngsters. From them, we elected 160 young parliamentarians, aged between 15 and 30, to represent towns and villages from Kepez. Thus, we involve young people in regional decision-making and have a real say on youth problems in Kepez-Antalya.

As a young Turkish politician, what have your contacts with the EU been so far? Your party is affiliated to Socialist International. What kind of activities have you carried out together? What have been your positive experiences and your disappointments?

I have a deep personal interest in the EU and its history. I have participated in EU-sponsored 'Youth Action' projects in Turkey. As an example, we have sent 30 participants to the youth projects from Kepez to EU countries. I have many contacts in Europe.

I want to see Turkey as member of the EU and I understand perfectly well that CHP was the opener of Turkey's EU integration process. Turkey's second president, Ismet ?nönü, signed the Ankara agreement with the EU in 1963 [an association agreement signed to take Turkey into a customs union and eventually full EEC membership]. We have been the opener and now we want to make membership come true.

Yes, as we are social democrats, we are a member of Socialist International and want the respect from Socialist International. Understanding and tolerance are important for both sides. I must add that our relations have been under some stress recently (EURACTIV 26/07/10).

When you have been invited to go to EU countries, has the visa problem been an obstacle for you? Can you give some examples of good or bad experiences? What do you think should be done to improve the situation?

Yes, the visa problem is a very big difficulty for the Turkish people. The EU countries require our citizens to obtain Schengen visas. They ask us to provide a lot of documents about the purpose of our visit, and the visas are quite expensive. Sometimes embassies refuse the visa without justification, even if you are invited for an official event. Other times issuing the visa takes too long.

For us, there is a lot of stress and frustration from this attitude. We are not second-class citizens of Europe and I hope we will soon be able to visit the EU countries without visas.

You seem very optimistic about CHP winning next year's elections…

Absolutely, we will be in power next year. We will win the elections and we will change Turkey, as Atatürk did and as he would have expected from us. Then, we will produce together a new modern constitution for Turkey. We will fight against unemployment and hunger. We will create family insurance and provide social support to the needy. We will change the education system. We will show our European face and speed up the accession process with the EU.

Are you one of those who accuse the EU of double standards or do you wish to have a more constructive relationship? You are a teacher by profession – what do your pupils think about Turkey-EU relations?

We want to be equal members of the EU, like Germany or Holland or France. We don't want favours, but we don't want double standards from the EU either. We are very upset about this. My pupils want their country to become a member of the EU, which in their understanding guarantees a good future and employment opportunities.

What are your personal plans in the political field? There will be a campaign for a referendum on the constitutional amendments introduced by the ruling AKP party, which CHP opposes. How much are you going to be involved? How do your see your future if your campaign and party are successful?

My personal plans are that I want to be a member of the Turkish parliament. And later, I want to be prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. This is my dream.

For now, I try to be a good member of my party, CHP. I work and think every moment about the referendum campaign. Every day we organise meetings in different places. We explain to people our positions on the referendum. We answer the questions of young people in Kepez-Antalya. Our Kepez president, Alican Deveci, is very active and experienced. He is an asset for CHP Kepez.

We will be the first party in Kepez and also in Turkey. We will win the elections with over 40% of the vote.

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