Gul speaks to EuroNews about presidential challenges

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Gul speaks to EuroNews about presidential challenges

Gul speaks to EuroNews about presidential challenges
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Certainly a moderate Islamist, and without doubt a committed European, Turkey’s new president Abdullah Gul, elected at the end of August, prefers talking about democracy than secularism. It was with this in mind he travelled to Strasbourg this week. Controversial in his own country, the former foreign minister and founder member of Turkey’s Justice and Development party the AKP, now in power, fully intends to use foreign policy issues to cement his newly-acquired authority as head of state.

EuroNews: “President Gul, welcome and thank you for granting EuroNews this interview from the studio of the Council of Europe.”

Gul: “Thank you very much.”

EuroNews: “While many leaders attend the United Nations General Assembly, you chose to appear on the international stage here in Strasbourg instead of New York. Why?”

Gul: “Turkey is a part of Europe. It is a country which shares the values of Europe. When I mean the values of Europe, I refer to democracy, respect for Human Rights, rule of law, and the free market economy. All of these are perceived as common values by us. And Turkey has been part of the European institutions from the beginning. It is a founding member of the Council of Europe. And I will do my best so that Turkey can continue its negociations with the European Union. I will support that process.”

EuroNews: “Do you expect soon a new start in the negociations between Turkey and the EU?”

Gul: “Some people in Europe think of Turkey as if it was going to join the Union tomorrow, as soon as that. But it is not the case. It is going to be a long process. Turkey is not in a hurried attitude, in a steadfast attitude. But the main thing is to accomplish the negociation process with success. And what we mean by that is that Turkey has to do everything that falls upon its shoulders. All of the provisions, the regulations and the standards must be brought to the level of the European Union. So, Turkey will work, will show a certain performance and the European Union will follow all of these.”

EuroNews: “How do you analyse the real decrease of support for EU membership in the Turkish public opinion?”

Gul: “Well, I don’t think this should be seen in the wrong way. In fact, a great majority of the Turkish population support Turkey’s membership to the European Union. But there is a certain disillusion. I have to openly, honestly say that as we go for deep-rooted reforms in Turkey, Turkish people think that this is not beeing appreciated enough by the Union. Unfortunately, we also need to struggle with terror and innocent people lose their lives because of that. We do not see enough support in our combat with terrorism, and this saddens the Turkish people. There are certain promises that were made,but there’s the fact that the promises are not kept, especially after the Turkish Cypriots said yes to the Annan plan. This is disappointing the Turkish people. And also there is another issue. Among the member states of the European Union, sometimes internal politics are being used against Turkey. This is also disappointing the Turkish population. These are the reasons why it seems as though the support drops. But in fact, deep down in their hearts, they support the process.”

EuroNews: “A big debate is being launched in Turkey about reforming the constitution. What should be changed or improved?”

Gul: “Turkey is a very open society. Everything is being discussed in a very open manner. Everybody puts forward their ideas. Even the most extreme ideas are discussed. But the common point is that the constitution needs to go through a change and secondly, the main principles of the constitution, which are democracy, secularism and a social state with a supremacy of the rule of law, those principles must be maintained and we must not step back on those principles. Everybody voices the same opinion about that. Turkey will always remain a democratic state with the supremacy of the rule of law. The opposite is unthinkable.”

EuroNews: “On the specific issue of freedom of speech, when do you think that the article 301, (of Turkey’s penal code, for more info: for example), will be abolished?”

Gul: “Now, I would like to say the following. There is freedom of speech in Turkey. But there is a perception within the European public opinion: they think that most of the writers, most of the authors, journalists, even the Nobel Prize winner, our great author Orhan Pamuk, or Elif Shafak, it is perceived as if all of these people were arrested and jailed, put into prison because of article 301, whereas none of these arguments are true. But since this article gives such a wrong image, then I believe that there should be certain improvements brought to that article. This is why the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Turkish Parliament, and the Government will start the work to do that.”