To postpone Prime Minister visit is bad for democracy

Turkish shops in Copenhagen. Copenhagen’s Turkish population has gotten a lot of attention recently, when the Prime Minister of Denmark postponed a meeting with his Turkish counterpart in the light of the diplomatic tensions between Turkey and some European countries

 

Postponement of the visit from the Turkish prime minister to Denmark poses a democratic problem. When Turkish citizens in Denmark cannot meet and discuss with officials from the Turkish government, they will go to the referendum ill informed, which is bad for democracy, says Danish/Turkish organisation.

By Sandra Tamasan and Eskild Heinemeier

Denmark has entered the diplomatic controversy of Turkey and a number of European countries by postponing a visit from the Turkish prime minister. But besides the diplomatic tensions, the decision also has democratic repercussions for the Turkish citizens living in Denmark, according to the organisation Danish Turkish Academic Union (DTAU).

Around 30.000 Turkish citizens living in Denmark have the right to state their opinion on the changes in Turkey’s constitution. The occasion to do that is on the 16th of April this year, when Turkey holds a constitutional referendum. There are 18 proposed amendments to the Constitution of Turkey that the electorate would have to decide to accept or to reject. And they need to know what to vote, why, and what are the consequences of their votes.

A diplomatic solution
Binali Yıldırım, the prime minister of Turkey, was supposed to visit Copenhagen and meet with his Danish counterpart, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. But because of the tensed diplomatic climate between Turkey and several European countries, the Danish prime minister found it appropriate to postpone the visit. Turkish ministers have been denied entry into The Netherlands, Austria, and parts of Germany.

In a press release, the Danish prime minister explained the postponement:

“Under normal circumstances it would be a pleasure for me to greet Prime Minister Yildirim in Copenhagen. I had a frank and constructive meeting with him in Ankara on 10 December last year. But with the current rhetorical attacks by Turkey against the Netherlands, a new meeting cannot be seen isolated from that. I have therefore suggested to my Turkish colleague that our meeting is postponed”

But according to the DTAU, the postponement sends an unfortunate signal.

Purpose of the visit
Besides the official meetings with Danish government, prime minister Yıldırım was expected to attend public meetings concerning the Turkish referendum.

Vice chairman of DTAU, Mehmet Salih Demir, himself a Danish resident with Turkish origins, says that expectations to the visit were to have an open dialogue. The idea was for prime minister Yıldırım, if he would attend any meetings with Turkish people in Denmark, to explain why people should vote ‘yes’ on the referendum. It was also his duty to answer the questions and concerns that people might have regarding such a vote.

The DTAU understands prime minister Rasmussen’s objective attitude to postpone the meeting, but they consider the result not very democratic.

“If this is democracy and there’s the right to freedom of speech, freedom of gathering, for people to do meetings, when even radical groups can speak out loud, how can you then deny access for a country’s official representatives coming to another country to speak and meet with their own citizens?”

A better understanding
The referendum in Turkey is very important. People are called to vote for or against significant changes to the government system. The visit of the prime minister was essential to the Turks living outside their country in order for them to understand the yes-side.

“We should have as many people from the no side to come up here and talk about why people should say no. And we should also have as many people from the yes side to explain their point. People need to be informed about what the whole referendum is regarding. If they don’t understand it, then in three weeks we will go to the election day and people will vote on things they don’t know what’s all about. And then you have a problem,” Demir concludes.

This article is made for Radio România Actualități (http://www.romania-actualitati.ro/). We think it has international relevancy to look at the Danish contribution to the “Turkey v. Europe”-controversey, and therefore also relevant to Romanian media.