A leading European Commission official has urged the Turkish government to stop attacking the European Union and engage more deeply in cooperation.
Stefano Manservisi, who was recently named the new head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, called the relationship between the bloc and Turkey “extremely strong” in financial and political terms as well as in the “people dimension.” However, the Italian said he finds recent anti-EU remarks from Turkish politicians “concerning.”
“We have a common interest in both being interested in each other. But it is also true that there are some question marks about recent legislation,” he told Hürriyet. “Even more than the legislation, a certain message is reinforcing a constant EU bashing. I know that EU bashing is, in a certain sense, part of the game, and this is the case in many of our member states too. But what is worrying here is that if the narrative becomes identified with systematic EU bashing, there is a threshold when it becomes very dangerous.”
Manservisi said the EU and Turkey must engage in “more cooperative work.”
“The obvious consequence is that the EU and Turkey must do more and not less together. It is in our interest,” he said, acknowledging that Turkey had taken many important steps in recent years, citing developments in Cyprus, the Kurdish issue and the 1915 incidents.
Manservisi also addressed the controversy that followed German President Joachim Gauck’s visit to Ankara, during which he criticized recent moves from the Turkish government, drawing a harsh response from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“There has been this sort of double level. The public presentation was critical on one side, fair enough. On the other side, replying was fair enough, too. It was legitimate for the two sides to express their views on a specific issue,” he said.
Manservisi also dismissed criticism that Prime Minister Erdoğan has become more authoritarian.
“I don’t think Turkey is a society that is under authoritarian rule. There are elements that are increasingly worrying. We identify a certain number of concerning areas: The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors [HSYK] law, the National Intelligence Agency [MİT] law, and the Internet law. The interventions in Twitter and YouTube also contain elements that are worrying. They do not ensure the balance between the protection of freedoms and the protection of security,” he added.
When asked about the polarization within the Turkish society, the European Commission official described himself as “a bit naïve.”
“I am not at all convinced that the polarization in Turkish society is about secularism and Islamism. This is a story that people like to present. What I see is that there is a very easy polarization among the political class in terms of power and influence. I don’t think there is that kind of polarization inside society,” Manservisi said.