STRASBOURG - Turkish Daily News
Swedish Foreign Minister and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe Carl Bildt said European observers do not share the concerns about secularism in Turkey, in an interview with the Turkish Daily News Monday.
�None of the European observers following Turkey have seen anything that would disturb them really. What we see is a normal democratic reform process in Turkey,� Bildt said and noted that there are different views on certain issues including the headscarf issue. �We have that in other European societies as well. What we see is that democratic reforms go forward. Then you hear some media having fears of the developments, we do not really see that,� Bildt said.
Closure case against the AKP is taken very seriously in Europe, Bildt said, and added they will follow what happens next if the party is shut down. The Constitutional Court's decision to declare void the amendments that would lift the headscarf ban in universities was, according to Bildt, a controversial one. �The decision taken by the AKP government was a fairly normal one by European standards. We do not have restrictions on what kind of headscarves women can wear in Sweden. We do not have the same history. But we do not have restrictions, you can live whichever way you want,� Bildt said.
Democratic standards should be observed
The Swedish minister noted Turkish military's declarations do not necessarily run against democracy. �Freedom of speech is for everyone,� Bildt said. He also urged Turkey to bring its military's powers in line with those seen in European states. �The military comes under the authority of the elected government. It applies to all European countries and it applies to Turkey as well,� he said but admitted the special status of the Turkish military. �That has to do with the history of Turkey, it was the military which set up the country and this is true if you go back into history. But now Turkey is making a transition to a normal European country. We need to help them to make that transition,� he said.
Bildt preferred to stand on will of the electorate than on secularism principle during his address to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly Monday. �Democracy is not only about having free and fair elections. It is also about respecting the result of the vote, as well as the government that was formed as a consequence,� he said to audience, commenting on democracy in Turkey.
�I understand that you intend to have a discussion on the situation in Turkey and the extremely far-reaching legal challenges now mounted against its democratically-elected government. We obviously have to respect the Constitution of Turkey, but in judging how the country's different constitutional institutions are used, we must also take into account the principles and practices of the countries of the Council of Europe,� he underlined and pointed to the Venice criteria on party closures. �The banning of political parties is always a serious issue, but the Venice Commission has laid down certain rules that ought to be observed. I believe that laws and practices that go significantly outside these rules will be seriously questioned not only in this Assembly,� he said at the meeting.