Council of Europe: major concerns over Turkey and China

30 May 2008

Council of Europe: major concerns over Turkey and China

The Council of Europe is extremely concerned about the situation in Turkey and in China. In Turkey, a member state of the Council of Europe, the High Court is considering a ban on the ruling AK Party of President Gül and Prime Minister Erdogan. Such a ban would plunge the country into a political crisis. China, which is in the process of preparing for the Olympic Games, plays an ever greater economic and political role in Europe. Yet human rights and democratic practices are treated there with disdain. The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which includes SP Senator Tiny Kox, Chair of the United Left Group in PACE, decided in Strasbourg this week to put both questions on the agenda of the Assembly's next plenary in Strasbourg.


During the summer it will become clear whether the Turkish High Court intends to take action against the AK Party and if so what kind of sanctions it will impose. The party is accused of having behaved unconstitutionally on a number of occasions, including in relation to the scrapping of a ban on wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf in schools, which could be interpreted as breaching the strict separation of religion and state laid down in the Turkish Constitution.

Together with the leaders of four other political groups, Senator Kox urged an emergency debate on this development in the June plenary.

Kox's view is that it would be reasonable for the Council of Europe to take steps to help prevent a serious political crisis from being provoked in Turkey by a possible ban on the AK Party. Membership of the Council of Europe, Kox argued, obliges Turkey to follow basic rules regarding democracy, human rights and the rule of law. A High Court that, possibly inspired by certain circles within the military, can in effect undo the results of elections, needs to understand that this can conflict with Turkey's treaty obligations as a member of the Council of Europe. In the recent past the Turkish High Court has banned political parties, including various parties of Turkey's Kurdish community. These decisions were later criticised by the European Court of Human Rights and by the Council of Europe. In Kox's view it would be better to prevent things from once again going that far. The emergency debate in June must, he said, send a message to Turkey that rules ratified by the country must be respected.


It was also decided in Stockholm that a debate would be held in June on the political situation in China. China is not only the frontrunner in economic growth, but also in the imposition of the death penalty. In addition, China is often culpable when it comes to bad working conditions, recognising no trade union rights. The ruling Communist Party has nothing to say to the people about the introduction of democratic rights.

Kox noted that, quite apart from the situation regarding the Olympic Games and Tibet, China had earned the attention of the Council of Europe. “Chinese banks now stand in the list of the world's Top Ten biggest, and everyone wants to trade with China. But as well as money and trade, elementary values of democracy and human rights should be important in the relations of our 47 member states with China. The Council of Europe, which represents 800 million Europeans, is the place where these matters should be discussed.”

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