Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Turkey plays the game according to EU rules

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Turkey plays the game according to EU rules

Zeynep Gurcanli (
06 April 2006

Pro-Kurdish Roj-TV, which broadcasts from Denmark, entered Turkish political discussions through a sudden rise in Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) activities in the southeast early last year. Ankara, after closely monitoring the channel's broadcasts, drew the conclusion that Roj-TV is affiliated to the PKK.

The Turkish prime minister's political maneuver of boycotting a scheduled joint news conference with his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Copenhagen to protest the presence of a Roj-TV journalist there, again last year, added further fuel to the issue and brought it to the very top of issues addressed by the Turkish public.

Ankara sent Copenhagen numerous official protest notes and documents proving a link between Roj-TV broadcasts to PKK activity on Turkish territory but was unable to obtain a positive response from the Danish government, which takes the stance of interpreting Roj-TV broadcasts as both freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

After being unsuccessful in bilateral demarches to convince the Danish authorities to ban the channel, Turkish officials then tried to involve third parties into their efforts. Ankara contacted both its powerful oversees ally, the U.S., and its European friends. But while the U.S. backed Turkey and began to put diplomatic pressure on the Danish government, both via public announcements from high-ranking U.S. officials and inclusion of the issue at bilateral meetings held behind closed doors, Ankara didn't receive the anticipated support from its European allies.

Matt Bryza, U.S. assistant secretary of state responsible for European and Eurasian affairs, recently reiterated U.S. support for Turkey's cause. Condemning Roj-TV's broadcasts in a statement Tuesday in Ankara, Bryza underlined that Washington's efforts to have the channel banned by the Danish authorities would continue. "We believe it should be closed and we'll continue to do everything we can with our other European allies besides Turkey to close down this support mechanism and any operations of the PKK in Europe," he said.

EU document as backup

But Washington's support alone isn't enough and Turkish officials began to look for different leverage to use as part of efforts to convince the Danish government. And, surprisingly, the most useful piece was found in the EU's archives: It's a French document that was sent to all European countries about another pro-Kurdish TV channel, Med TV, with links to the PKK. The French government notified its European partners about a relationship between Med TV broadcasts and PKK terrorist activity on Turkish territory while explaining its decision to ban the channel. Turkey then showed similarities between the cases of Med TV and Roj-TV through both French and Turkish official documents and sent them to Copenhagen. Proving that an EU country hadn't hidden behind the freedom of expression principle when there's imminent danger of terrorism, Ankara then asked the Danish government to act in a similar fashion to France.

New Kurdish channels in the pipeline

Whether Ankara's legal maneuver will have an effect in Copenhagen or not, the owners of Roj-TV haven't been idle. In a recent interview with Reuters, Roj-TV's head Manouchehr Tahsili Zonoozi announced that he plans to set up a 24-hour Kurdish language news station, as well as a radio station and music TV channel.

It seems that Ankara, which has been unable to secure a diplomatic victory against Roj-TV in Denmark to date, has new headaches to look forward to in the near future …

Source : The New Anatolian