AER President, Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli led a delegation of AER members and representatives of partner organisations (see list below) to Ankara for unique encounters with regional and national high level officials from the main political parties.
The aim of this visit was to show solidarity to Turkey after the failed coup d’Etat on 15 July 2016. AER counts many Turkish members, which have been affected by this coup attempt. Standing for multilevel governance, democracy and subsidiarity it was only normal that the European regional level, alongside the international and national levels, showed solidarity to Turkey : “AER has decided to put focus in 2016 on revitalising democracy, it is therefore only normal that we act, at our level, for the sake of all European regions, to promote democracy, peace and welfare” explained Dr Bozatli.
The initiative was applauded by all our Turkish interlocutors and the delegates all took away insights on the situation in Turkey that could only be grasped on the spot, in face to face exchanges at the occasion of these privileged meetings.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent GMF in the delegation. AER put together a solid program that has provided me with new insights and contacts that no doubt will be beneficial for my work at GMF” confirmed Ms Charlotte Brandsma, Senior Program Officer on Mediterranean policy, The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Ms Brandsma has written an article “Turkey’s Troubles and the Way Forward: A Letter From Ankara” following this work.
The first lesson learned was that all major Turkish political parties stood together at the time of the coup, signing, in a bombarded parliament, a declaration for democracy. They also stand together to praise the role the people of Turkey played that night to save their freedom.
Sadly, all our interlocutors frowned upon the slow reaction of the European union and European countries to condemn these events and to show solidarity with Turkey. The feeling that Europe had (some felt, once again) failed them was very pregnant.
The condemnation of the Gülen movement as a terrorist organisation behind the coup was shared by all with the strong belief that, should the coup have succeeded, power would not have been given to the people and the country would have fallen in chaos.
Unfortunately, what started as a show of unity to defend democracy did not continue after that night. When reconciliation in Turkish society could have gone further after all parties stood together to defend democracy, the polarisation of the Turkish society based on political affiliation is very clear and obvious.
The AER delegation stressed how pleased it was that this illegal and anti-democratic coup failed. It also stressed how crucial it is to maintain the very principles of democracy and rule of law the people stood for when dealing with the aftermath of this coup.
Subsidiarity, as a mean to further democracy in the country, was of course also mentioned with mixed reactions from to our interlocutors. When some wish to go further, others clearly see it as a threat to the unity of the country. AER will of course continue its pedagogical role in defending this crucial European principle, when clearly the path towards further European integration has been praised by all. « Pull us towards Europe, don’t push us to the Middle East ». AER and all delegation members will play their part towards this objective. Mr Miltiadis Kyrkos, MEP, Vice-chair of the delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee already acknowledged “The quality of the delegation and of the meetings in Ankara proved highly useful. I’m pleased to say that this trip will contribute to giving a new impetus to the discussions in our working group.”
Assembly of European Regions:
Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli, AER President
Mr Mihai Ritivoiu, Vice President of the AER social policy and public health committee, in charge of social inclusion
Mr Mathieu Mori, AER Secretary General
Mr Miltiadis Kyrkos, MEP, Vice-chair of the delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee
Committee of the Regions
Mr Jean-Luc Vanraes, Chair of the Committee of the Regions’ working group on Turkey and President of the AER economy and regional development committee
AER partner organisations:
Mr Martin Guillermo-Ramirez, Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions
Ms Charlotte Brandsma, Senior Program Officer on Mediterranean policy, The German Marshall Fund of the United States
On Monday 19/09:
- Ministry for EU affairs, Mr Engin Soysal, undersecretary for EU affairs
- Metropolitan Municipality of Ankara, Mr İbrahim Melih Gökçek, Mayor of Ankara
On Tuesday 20/09:
- AKP Party, Mr Mehdi Eker, Vice President for international affairs
- Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr Akif Hamzacebi, Deputy Chairman of the Assembly
- Republican People’s Party (CHP), Mr Kamil Okyay Sindir, Secretary General and MP for Izmir & Ms Selin Sayek Böke, Deputy Chair for Economic Policy
Pictures: click here