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Ahmet Şık has the key to Varna

By Aslı Aydıntaşbaş
Yayınlanma tarihi: 05 Mart 2018 Pazartesi, 10:47

A summit between the European Union and Turkey will be held in the Bulgarian city of Varna at the end of the month. This is a meeting that Ankara has wanted for some time and the Europeans have somehow shown reluctance over.
I am no dreamer. I know that Turkey’s path to the European Union is blocked and it is impossible for a country in which democracy has been suspended in full to breathe life into its EU negotiating process. The people in Ankara are not minded to take an initiative in the short term, nor is Europe to bring a Turkey in this condition into its fold.
If nobody says it aloud, the most realistic expectation in this regard is to be able to keep these relations going for a while longer without rupturing them. To prevent the big rupture with Europe, to reduce to a minimum the tensions those in power would like to dress up as being a “clash of civilisations” (but actually have to do with day-to-day political calculations) and to be able to continue investments that are significant for Turkey’s development in economic terms.
You will say, “Well, why shouldn’t relations with Europe rupture?” Because this is a strategic choice handed down from past generations. Because being a member of the club in which the first-class democracies are to be found is better than floundering in the Middle-East quagmire as a mediocre autocracy. Because nobody can easily jettison society’s century-long “contemporary civilisations” goal.
We cannot mortgage the future. Unfortunately, we were not up to the task of democracy and have created a lousy and oppressive country. But this does not mean that our children and grandchildren will not be up to the task, either. Maybe they will construct a better-quality country, usher in a freer society and attain domestic peace, economic wellbeing and equality.
In view of this possibility alone, it must be ensured that the EU process does not rupture.
Let us return to Varna. For the reasons I have discussed above, I have no great expectations as things currently stack up. However, the Foreign Ministry and our EU branch of the civil service in Ankara have veritably pulled the rabbit out of the hat in such an environment and managed to create a small flurry in relations with the EU.
It sent a proposal package to Brussels containing an amendment to the counterterrorism law with a view to enabling Turkey to get “visa liberalisation” in the Schengen zone.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Foreign Ministry lot. It constitutes an important citizenship duty to have stood firm and avoided rupturing Turkey’s bridges with Europe at this tough time.
However, this proposal package will not suffice. Regardless of what the politicians say, the question of freedom of expression, which has become one of the most important conditions for visa liberalisation, is in a woeful state. Dozens of journalists, politicians and citizens are in jail for what they have written, drawn or said.
The business is now like something out of Aziz Nesin. There was a report recently. One of the informant citizens that have popped up of late sneaked a look at the WhatsApp messages of a woman sitting next to him on the minibus and had the woman arrested after getting off the minibus. This is just how “sick” a state we are in, you see.
In this environment, the best thing that can happen at Varna is for relations not to rupture. The counterterrorism proposal that the EU Ministry has drawn up is positive. However, I do not imagine that this will suffice for the Europeans. They will want to see a real step and not word games. There is no point in a freedom of expression package without releasing the journalists.
The government has a very easy way to facilitate the taking of a very serious step: the 9 March Cumhuriyet hearing. The Cumhuriyet trial is a symbolic trial in the whole of Europe. There are still three colleagues of ours in jail: Ahmet Şık, Akın Atalay and Murat Sabuncu. By now, the prosecution has turned itself into a laughing stock with its absurd and irrational pronouncements over Cumhuriyet. Nobody, including AKP people, believes that this newspaper is terroristic, FETOist, PKKist or what have you.
So, come on and quit being stubborn. Do something felicitous for Turkey. Release these colleagues of ours and unblock the way forward for the country a bit.
Go to Varna having taken a step that is truly tangible.

Her gün bir Cumhuriyet gazetesi alın, aldırın…
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Cumhuriyet Arşivi Gazete Kupürlerinde:

Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, Ahmet Şık, Aziz Nesin