I come in front of you today, dear colleagues, to speak to you as a friend, a long-standing friend of Turkish European vocation.
Actually, I represent the country Greece that has been a strong supporter, actually one among the strongest and most sincere supporters of Türkiye’s European vocation after Helsinki and one of the countries that sees it in its national interest to have a European, liberal, democratic Türkiye at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbourhood.
But the truth of the matter is that we have a problem, a big problem, a serious problem we cannot ignore.
Türkiye’s democracy is disintegrating in front of our eyes. Türkiye is back-pedalling. We know the story. The first years Erdoğan rode the democratic and liberal bus to get rid of the role of the army and of the deep state. But since the mid 2010s, things have gone the opposite way, accelerating with a change of the constitution in 2017.
It’s not for me to say, and I don’t want to dispute, we have the indexes. We have the objective listings, everybody consults around the world: The Economist Democracy Index, the Freedom House Index for Liberty and Democracy.
Türkiye is ranked among the lowest in the world. Not in the first hundred. Together with Mali and Haiti, according to Freedom House, 134th in the world as a non-free society, and a hybrid regime according to The Economist.
We have a problem beyond any doubt, no matter how the apologies of the regime might want to pretend otherwise.
We have an additional issue we cannot ignore. Putin and what happened with Russia leaves no room for complacency. We have heard the criticism from our Ukrainian friends and our other friends from Eastern Europe that we had been very lenient with Russia for too long.
We cannot allow the same to happen with Türkiye. We know that a regime that stands against its citizens will then against its neighbours as well.
As we are heading towards the elections of 2023, we cannot allow this derailed train of democracy to go into a big crash to the detriment of the Turkish people first and foremost, peace and stability in the region as well.
So we urge, according to the report, our Turkish friends and colleagues, to work together to improve the situation.
As someone who was born in Kavala, the city where Osman Kavala’s family comes from in northern Greece, I want to conclude by saying the simple thing: respect the European Court of Human Rights’ rulings and free Kavala now.