German MEP: Merkel only ‘pouring oil on the fire’ of Turkish-Kurdish conflict

Martina Michels [European Parliament]

Europe needs to up the pressure and terminate its refugee deal with Ankara, especially since the bloc only showed “concern” that Turkey arrested a number of Kurdish mayors this week, urges MEP Martina Michels in interview with EURACTIV Germany.

Martina Michels is an MEP with the GUE/NGL group, representing Die Linke at a national level. She is a substitute on the European Parliament’s delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Michels spoke to’s Nicole Sagener.

After the arrest of Kurdish mayors Gültan Kisanak and Firat Anli in Diyarbakır, a Turkish prosecutor denied them access to legal representation for five days. Has contact been made now though?

To my knowledge, there is currently no chance to visit Kisanak or Anli and there is no information available about their current situation. Despite fierce protests, there is still a ban on visitation. During my last visit to Turkey, I found Gültan Kisanak to be hugely professional and dedicated politician, who always stressed the importance of peaceful reconciliation. In Ankara, she has had to testify before a committee of inquiry against charges of having contact with the Gülen movement and being a PKK member. She said that if the military coup had succeeded, then today she would not be alive. Clearly, she is far detached from the Gülen movement.

Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe. But beyond the concerns raised by Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the EU has held back…

The European Council is one of the bodies, along with the Commission, that has the chance to exert pressure. Current events will be on the next Council session. Its members want to adopt a resolution and may even go against the Ankara court.

You have called on the federal government to end its “premium partnership” with Erdoğan, as well as the EU-Turkey deal. What would happen to the affected refugees?

As long as we are dealing with Erdoğan in this way, pressure cannot be exerted. So long as Angela  Merkel keeps visiting Ankara and accepting the imperial ambitions of a dictator, Erdoğan is going to keep doing as he pleases. If Turkey is going to be a key partner of the EU, as Merkel says, then it needs to be understood as being a two-way street. We are complicit in whatever happens in Turkey.

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The European Union looks set to break its promise to relocate 160,000 refugees across the bloc from Greece and Italy by September 2017, after figures released today (28 September) revealed that just 5,651 asylum seekers were re-homed in the year since the pledge was made.

What should Merkel do differently then?

If the EU-Turkey deal were terminated, then millions of refugees aren’t going to suddenly flood into Europe. The fact that fewer and fewer refugees are making it to Germany has less to do with the Turkey deal and more to do with the internal controls within Schengen and the resurfacing of border fences. I agree with Angela Merkel in that she is right that the refugee crisis can only be solved at a European level. But it’s regrettable that she doesn’t take a more active role. She has a responsibility to prove herself as a true European and to go to the Council, meet with her European counterparts, and make them back down. Instead, as the Jan Böhmermann and the Armenian resolution show, she’s pouring more oil on the fire.

And apart from the German government?

The pandering to leaders like Viktor Orbán shows the alarming state of the EU. Orbán is a member of the European conservatives, but I see no efforts from the party committees to engage in any kind of dialogue. There’s no summit on seeking a pan-European solution, in order to exert pressue on the Council.

In Diyarbakır and other cities in Turkey’s east, internet access is currently unavailable. Freedom of speech and the press are being eroded. Your group has tabled its own resolution on the situation facing Turkish journalists.

All groups in the Parliament yesterday (27 October) agreed that the restrictions on freedom of speech and the press are totally unacceptable and we called on the Council and the High Representative to outlaw these restrictions. Basically, the negotiations on visa liberalisation are the Parliament’s only bargaining chip. The immediate release of these politicians is a prerequisite for further talks, in our opinion.

EU should not forget Turkey has alternatives, PM warns

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım warned the EU on Saturday (22 October) not to forget that Turkey has alternatives to the bloc, whose ties with Ankara have become increasingly strained.

The majority Kurdish south-east hasn’t found the peace that was promised when a ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish army was brokered in July 2015. Since then, it has been claimed that more than 600 members of the Turkish security forces have been killed, along with more than 7,000 PKK fighters. What has to be done for a real ceasefire to take effect?

I don’t think that Erdoğan’s real objective is to negotiate a ceasefire with the PKK. After the attacks in Ankara last year left more than 100 people dead, targeting a demonstration attended by the pro-Kurdish HDP party, the situation has become catastrophic. The army clearly provoked things. At the funeral of a HDP candidate who was killed in the bombing, the Turkish army did a low-level fly-by over a crowd of thousands in Diyarbakır.

The question is: Does Erdoğan even want a ceasefire? In this cycle of violence, only international pressure is going to return things to normality.

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