On 6 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Giorgos Georgiou and Niyazi Kizilyürek of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The Turkish Cypriot KTÖS teachers’ union, whose Secretary-General has been awarded the European Citizen’s Prize, has been the target of serious threats from the Turkish Government and its chosen surrogate Ersin Tatar. This has been prompted by their criticism of the new Turkish Cypriot leader and of political interference by the Turkish Government in the internal affairs of the Turkish Cypriot community, especially during the recent presidential elections.
Ömer Çelik, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been particularly vociferous in his condemnation of Mr Elcil, intimating that a suitable political and legal response would be forthcoming. He also urged his supporters to express their own condemnation of the KTÖS and their disapproval of the stance adopted by it, thereby endangering its members, including Mr Elcil, and other democratically-inclined Turkish Cypriots.
In view of the Turkish Government’s attempt to silence, intimidate and deliberately target all those expressing opposition to its interference within the Turkish Cypriot community:
1. Can the Commission say whether it is aware of this situation?
2. What steps will it take to protect the members of the KTÖS teachers’ union, including Mr Elcil, a recipient of the European Citizen’s Prize, for his endeavours to promote peaceful coexistence in Cyprus without the presence of occupying troops, in line with the core principles and values of the EU?”
On 27 January 2021, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission is aware of the case of Mr Şener Elcil, raised by the Honourable Members, and is concerned at recent statements, which appear intended to intimidate Mr Elcil from exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Freedom of expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority, is guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Commission is firmly attached to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, which are key values on which the European Union is founded. These are also core principles which Turkey is called to observe as a candidate country to the EU, and also as a long-standing member of the Council of Europe.
As stated on 11 December 2020, the European Council supports the speedy resumption of negotiations, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), and remains fully committed to a
comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework and in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council (SC) resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded. It expects the same of Turkey.
The Commission will continue to monitor the issue and to underline the paramount importance of freedom of expression. At the same time, the Commission will continue to endeavour to support initiatives aiming at fostering reconciliation in Cyprus and improving contacts between the two communities and with the EU.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/cyprus-flag-fingerprint-country-662110/