Vienna, 13 June 2013 Press release

Spindelegger on Turkey: "Freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly and demonstration are the essence of any democracy"

Foreign Minister cautions against effect on EU process; EU could table a relevant negotiation chapter

Vienna, 13 June 2013 – In view of the protests of civil society groups in Turkey that have now lasted for 15 days, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger expressed his concern about the approach of the Turkish Government: "Turkish security forces have shown a shocking level of intimidation and violence against the demonstrators who are mostly peaceful. The Turkish Government must make every effort to ensure appropriate conduct of security forces, respect for human rights and protection of fundamental and civil rights." Spindelegger also said that the invitation of Turkish politicians to enter into dialogue may have come late but is still indispensable for social peace.

Spindelegger also cautioned against criminalising the protests simply because a minority of the protesters were rioters. "Austria and the EU condemn any form of violence – violence on the part of the protesters included. The allegations made by Turkish politicians recently, however, that the protesters were agitators or even terrorists, are not conducive to de-escalation and represent yet another blow against the respect of freedom of expression." The Foreign Minister also expressed his concern about the public announcements that the Internet and above all social media would be limited or subjected to stricter controls.

Spindelegger said that the next few days and the government's response would be decisive for the negotiations between Turkey and the EU. "The EU must take a clear stance and make Ankara understand that protection of the fundamental human rights is a core element of the European community of values and a necessary prerequisite for Turkey's rapprochement to the EU", the Foreign Minister said. Instead of blocking negotiation chapters, the EU should consider opening the relevant chapter 23 on "Judiciary and Fundamental Rights". "By opening this chapter the EU could address painful subjects and put the issue officially on the negotiating table", Spindelegger concluded.

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