Tag Archives: turkey

Multiculturalism on the defensive

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Ever since the then Prime Minister David Cameron declared that “multiculturalism has failed” the concept has found itself on the back foot in Western political discourse. This has been a matter of dismay for many – I suspect most – Liberal Democrats, as multiculturalism is part of our DNA. This means not just tolerating but accepting difference, be it about ethnicity, religion, language, ability, sexuality or other forms of collective and personal identity.

Alas, with a few noble exceptions, political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have tapped into a seam of populist fear or resentment of The Other. This is not just a phenomenon of right-wing extremism, as represented by Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, France’s Marine Le Pen or Brexit’s Man in the Pub, Nigel Farage, all of whom have demonised Muslims and refugees. Listen to Donald Trump’s rambling speeches or read Boris Johnson’s journalism and you soon sense the undercurrent of prejudice and discrimination.

One of the reasons so many LibDems love the European Union is because the EU actively celebrates diversity. The Lisbon Treaty (the nearest to a Constitution that the EU has adopted) specifically declares that the Union respects cultural diversity and national identities. It would be nice to think that all member states treat this pledge equally seriously, and that those who don’t can be nudged back into line. Ideally, as a European Liberal Democrat I would moreover hope this could be a template for the rest of the world to follow.

However, I am enough of a realist to recognise that this is far from the case in 2020. Moreover, core European values, such as a respect for human rights and the Rule of Law, which were placed at the heart of post-War multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, no longer hold sway over much of the planet. Indeed, some totalitarian regimes argue that promoting these values is a form of neo-colonialism.

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Observations of an expat: Coronavirus exploitation

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A pandemic is a perfect excuse for politicians to exploit public fear for their own political advantage—and many of them are doing just that.

Let’s start with Trumpland where the administration’s mishandling of the pandemic means that the country is fast heading for a world-beating 100,000-plus deaths. Trump is using coronavirus to stoke the fires of Sinophobia. China has been the US administration’s chief bogey since 2016 when advisers such as Steve Bannon were warning that a Sino-American war was inevitable. The anti-Chinese stand is also proving popular with the voters in an election year with 70 percent of the electorate critical of China.

China’s President Xi Ji-ping is just as bad. Between Beijing and Washington an increasing number of outrageous conspiracy theories have been launched by both sides. The Chinese have also used the pandemic to boost military operations in the South China Sea and is selectively dispatching its medical equipment to countries where it thinks it can establish a stronger foothold. It has also used Covid-19 to crackdown on Hong Kong dissidents and is claiming in capitals around the world that its relatively successful handling of the pandemic demonstrates the superiority of the country’s political system. The latter claim is a leaky bucket as increasing doubt is poured on Beijing’s death statistics.

One of the most blatant pandemic power grabs is in Hungary. President Viktor Orban has managed to persuade his parliament that the danger of the pandemic means he should rule by decree for an unlimited period. As a result, the already sycophantic press has been further muzzled and public protests have been banned and in some cases criminalised.

In Turkey, President Erdogan, released thousands of prisoners from jail—except the political prisoners. He has also blocked fundraising efforts by opposition city councils in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

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12-13 October 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems: Compulsory voter ID is an attempt to rig our elections
  • Lib Dems: Govt must ban arms sales to Turkey

Lib Dems: Compulsory voter ID is an attempt to rig our elections

Responding to the reports that the Government are set to announce it will be compulsory for voters to show identification at the next election, Liberal Democrat shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, Tom Brake said:

The move by the Government to make voter ID compulsory is a thinly-veiled attempt to rig the results of future elections. We know from the pilot back in 2018 that voter fraud was inconsequential, whilst what

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LibLink: Sarah Olney: Theresa May’s visit to Turkey betrays our liberal values

Fresh from her meeting in Washington with a man who has extolled the effectiveness of torture, admitted sexually assaulting women and who thinks building walls between nations is a good idea, our Prime Minister heads today to meet the leader of a so-called democracy where human rights mean nothing and journalists are imprisoned.

Sarah Olney has written a blistering article in the Guardian, attacking the PM for betraying our liberal values instead of safeguarding our trading relationship with the democracies on our doorstep.

This tawdry tour shames Britain. This is a defining period on the international stage and we must consider to what extent this new course is safeguarding both our interests and values around the world.

In an age of “alternative facts”, there is no doubt about the realities of the Erdoğan regime. Even before last July’s failed coup, Erdoğan had begun systematically dismantling Turkey’s democratic institutions. Since the coup, he has embraced full-frontal authoritarianism. He is not only locking up journalists, but teachers, professors and policemen – all without due process. Not quite the outfit you’d have in mind for a regime described yesterday as an “indispensable partner” by Theresa May.

>Indeed, turn the clock back eight months and our now foreign secretary was slating the Turkish president. Yet Boris Johnson has fallen unusually silent – refusing to call Erdoğan out on his shocking crimes. There is a pattern here: ministers pursuing business deals on the international stage at odds with Britain’s best traditions and values.

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Tom Brake calls for Turkey to be suspended from NATO

As the human rights situation in Turkey worsens, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesperson Tom Brake has called for Turkey to be suspended from NATO and for the refugee deal between Turkey and the EU to be scrapped.

He said:

Erdogan’s ongoing purge of newspapers, academics, teachers and judges has nothing to do with Turkey’s security and everything to do with blocking any opposition to his increasingly authoritarian rule. Today’s news that dozens more media outlets have been shut should send shivers down the spine of any person who believes in a free and open society.

The preamble to NATO’s founding treaty refers to it being “founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law”, all of which are under threat in Turkey currently.

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LibLInk: Edward McMillan Scott: Turkey’s EU membership will remain in the EU’s deep freeze, no matter what Leave says

The Leave campaign continue to peddle the lie that Turkey is about to join the EU.

This is not going to be happening any time soon despite the disgraceful leaflet which shows the 76 million figure and an arrow going straight from Turkey to Britain (and actually in Scotland, the arrow pointed to Scotland).

Former Liberal Democrat MEP Edward McMillan has outlined the issues surrounding Turkey’s application in an article on politics.co.uk.

Turkey has always been a divisive issue for the Tories, whose Ukip tendency see Turkey’s membership as the final nail in the EU’s coffin. I witnessed this for several years in the 1990s, when I was the European parliament’s spokesman on Turkey’s accession bid. Leading Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has waded into the Warsi resignation debate this week. He says he asked her to join Leave and now claims she declined, although his friend, Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, told the Huffington Post that Hannan had indeed recruited her.

But internal Conservative politics aside, the fact remains that Turkey’s entry into the EU remains a very distant prospect. The EU’s response to Turkey’s often blunt courtship has traditionally been: “We don’t think either of us is ready for this yet, but let’s keep working on the relationship”. However, recent thuggish behaviour by President Erdogan’s hoodlums against any dissent to his corrupt regime has made even EU diplomats use much stronger language.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Cameron must veto this poisonous deal with Turkey before our response to the Refugee Crisis becomes immoral

Strong words from Tim Farron in today’s Independent about the proposed EU deal with Turkey which would see refugees returned from Greece to Turkey. Rather than create safe and legal routes for refugees, Tim argues that this deal would violate international conventions.

For instance, collective expulsions of people seeking international protection are condemned by the EU’s own Charter of Fundamental Rights. We know Turkey has failed to fully implement the Geneva Convention on refugees and has no functioning asylum policy. David Cameron would do well to re-read the international human rights agreements and principles Britain has committed to, before he signs on the dotted line in Brussels.

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Putting in a good word for Turkey and the Turks

I couldn’t believe the UKIP Party Political Broadcast (PPB) earlier this week. It really is a new low for a PPB to comprehensively denigrate an entire country and its people.

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Sal Brinton on Question Time tonight – will she confront Farage over UKIP’s awful broadcast?

So much for my early night tonight. I have to get up before the Cool Kids have gone to bed to get a flight to Cardiff to go to Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference. I can’t miss Sal Brinton on Question Time (BBC1, 10:45pm), though. Especially as there may be a bit of an awkward moment for Nigel Farage. He’s on the programme yet again on the day that Tim Farron and Meral Ece have complained to the BBC and Ofcom about UKIPs Party Political Broadcast last night. They say that it incited religious and racial hatred.

I don’t normally go out of my way to watch UKIP broadcasts. Life is just too short. However, I steeled myself to look at this one and, sure enough, my skin was soon crawling. It was basically a brash and ugly attempt to create division and distrust and gives a very false impression of Turkey and its people. It made me feel very uncomfortable. The premise was that Turkey was just about to join the European Union and this was a bad thing. It’s not as if that’s likely to happen any time soon, but they made it sound like it was going to take place next week.

UKIP are using exactly the same tactics as they did in 2013 over Romanians and Bulgarians. It’s truly horrible. I remember people in Eastleigh telling me on the phone that 40 million Romanians and Bulgarians were going to come to Britain – a massive proportion of the populations of those two countries – because UKIP leaflets were full of it. In fact, this time last year, there were 172,000. Those figures estimated that there were 1.9 people here from other European countries. There are 2 million British people elsewhere in the EU. Freedom of movement works both ways.

Tim explained why they had reported the ad to OFCOM:

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

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A picture postcard from a Liberal Democrat in Gezi Park

I’m leafing through the 2,077 photos I’ve taken so far of Turkey’s protests. Having sat down to shed a ‘liberal’ light on what’s happening here, I realize I may make a further claim to your attention: I am seeing, as it were, both sides of the coin.

Watching protests in Beşiktaş, Taksim & Gezi Park, marching to the outskirts of Istanbul & being pepper-sprayed is one side. Working in a conservative, pro-government school where colleagues refer to protestors as “terrorists” and tut gruffly every time Taksim gets mentioned is the other.

A Tale of Two Turkeys 

This is a tale of two Turkeys. …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 3 Comments

Nick Clegg: “Turkish entry into the EU is a strategic necessity”

Nick Clegg is on a trade mission to Turkey today, and has announced £500m of business deals and £1m of funding for the Turkish Red Crescent in Syria.

He wrote this morning in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, on the Turkish economy, trade between Turkey and the UK, visas for Turkish travellers, and the the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. You can read the article in Turkish over at Sabah; the English translation is below:

This summer for a few, glorious weeks the United Kingdom became the centre of the world as we hosted the London Olympic and Paralympic

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Lord John Sharkey’s maiden speech

LDV has been bringing you the words of our new representatives as they speak for the first time in the Houses of Parliament. We bring you maiden speeches from new MPs and new members of the House of Lords. You can find an archive of all maiden speeches we’ve published by clicking this link. If you think we’ve missed someone, do please drop us a line.

Lord Sharkey: My Lords, it is a great privilege and a great honour to join your Lordships’ House. It has also been a great pleasure because of the immense kindness shown …

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The Saturday Debate: Should Turkey be admitted to the EU?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate:

In all the recent controversy surrounding David Cameron’s recent foreign policy pronouncements some of the substance has perhaps been lost: here was the leader of a major European country unequivocally urging that Turkey be admitted as a member of the European Union.

This has tended to be an uncontroversial view among the British political classes, who regard Turkey as a vital fulcrum in reconciling the West and the Islamic world. It is far less popular among the voters of Europe, as a …

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Daily View 2×2: 11 October 2009

It’s Sunday. It’s 7am. It’s time for the Daily View, today with an science fiction meets ukulele musical extra.

2 Big Stories

English Defence League takes to streets, violence follows

Perhaps someone should tell the English Defence League that the best way for them to defend the values they claim to stand up for would be to wind themselves up given how little of that traditional English value of tolerance its members display. But in the meantime, here’s the latest news:

More than 40 people have been arrested during two political demonstrations in Manchester city centre.

At least 2,000 people attended the protests, by the English Defence League (EDL) and members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses said “ugly scenes” broke out between rival protestors and police.

Forty-eight people have been arrested, four among them were held on suspicion of affray. Most of the other arrests were for public order offences. (BBC)

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