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Intervention of Recep Tayyjp Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey
Warsaw, 16 May 2005
Heads of States,
Prime Ministers, Distinguished Participants,
The Third Summit of the Council of Europe meeting today in Warsaw, capital of a member state of the European Union, best reflects the huge transformation Europe has undergone.
We extend our thanks to our Polish hosts for their hospitality.
We in Turkey are proud of being among the founding members of the Council of Europe which, since 1949, has sought to ensure that all European nations attain higher standards of democratic values, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Global changes have accentuated the importance of the Council of Europe's core mission in preserving and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The principles upon which the Council of Europe is built upon; provide a basic point of reference for us all in the difficult period that we are currently experiencing on a global scale. The standards we have established in the Council of Europe set an example for other parts of the world.
Following the demise of the bi-polar world in the aftermath of the Cold War and with growing globalisation, the international system has changed beyond recognition.
We hoped that the international community, freed from the constraints of the bi-polar world, would progress towards stability, welfare and integration, making use of all the constructive instruments provided by globalisation.
However, the terrorist attacks of "September 11" have demonstrated the threat that terrorism poses to all mankind.
Terrorism has also become global, cutting across geographic, religious or racial lines. Fight against terrorism requires concerted international action.
Similarly, the impact of drugs and arms smuggling, trafficking in human beings, corruption and environmental problems also transcend national borders.
Xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism and prejudices towards certain faiths and identities, as well as ethnic and religious extremism still persist. We see that islamophobia has also joined the ranks of these scourges. We are alarmed by these developments.
In fighting against these threats, Europe needs to unite around common democratic values and promote cooperation. Under these circumstances, common platforms uniting us on common principles gain even more significance. The Council of Europe is at the forefront of such fora.
In the aftermath of "September 11 ", we witnessed the vulnerability of understanding among different cultures and civilisations. We also saw how easy it is for deep-rooted prejudices to resurface with a vengeance.
Indeed, one of the responses to "September 11" was to identify terrorism along cultural and religious divides. I want to emphasize once more our conviction that terrorism has no religion, culture, race, and nation at all.
No monotheistic religion tolerates acts of terror or murder.
Unfortunately, we witness the re-emergence of bigotry and prejudice in the aftermath of "September 11".
Throughout ages, the concept of "the Other" instigated conflicts and clashes. History teaches us that the way people approach "the Other" also determines the dynamics of stability and peace.
Throughout history, we witnessed that tendencies to ignore or to exclude "the Other", or to dominate "the Other" through political, economic or cultural mean, only resulted in hostility and confrontation.
Today, the question to be asked should be the following: Who is '1he Other"? Does "the Other" really exist? Or, is it just a problem of perception created by prejudice, intolerance, absence of mutual understanding or lack of attention ?
We believe that the Council of Europe, gathering all European countries around a system of common democratic values, constitutes the appropriate platform for the eradication of prejudices caused by intolerance. It has the expertise and the mechanisms to do that.
We are persuaded that migration and integration issues currently faced by our societies in Europe can often be best addressed at the local level. Therefore, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities can make important contributions to the promotion of intercultural and inter-religious dialogue by promoting best practices.
We much appreciate the contribution of the Council of Europe to the eradication of historical prejudices, through its activities in teaching history and related projects by fostering accurate understanding of history.
Alongside activities aiming our own societies, we believe that the Council of Europe should also develop its cooperation and coordination with other international and regional institutions.
We believe that as an institution representing unity in our Continent, the Council of Europe has central role in promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. To this end, it should foster cooperation, in particular, Wit the United Nations, UNESCO, Organisation of Islamic Conference, OSCE and the EU, through common programs.
We are aware that its geographical location assigns a special Responsibility to Turkey in promoting intercultural and inter-religious dialogue between Europe and its neighboring regions.
I wish to reiterate that Turkey shall pursue efforts in this direction.
Democracy has many prerequisites. First and foremost, it demands
freedom of thought and expression. It has to be based on respect for the right to govern the majority and respect for the differences of those who are in the minority in politics; on the ability to come together for common cause; on women's active role in society and politics; on transparency and accountability.
Mr. Chairman, Dear Colleagues,
We, in Turkey, are fully committed to these values. For this purpose, my Government constantly seek to achieve higher democratic standards. In pursuit of our targets, we closely follow Council of Europe standards.
We endeavour to meet the increasing demands and democratic expectations of the Turkish people. In this context, we take into account the specificities of our society and try to reach the optimal solutions.
We also benefit from the experience of others. In this context, our relations with the European Union and our candidacy for membership to it, provide us with additional momentum.
Indeed, during the last two years, we have undertaken comprehensive reforms to improve individual liberties, democratic accountability and transparency in Turkey. Yet, we are also aware that there is still much that we can do.
Our experience in Turkey proves that a country with a predominantly Muslim population can attain European democratic standards while preserving and indeed cherishing its moral and cultural identity. In this respect, fundamental principles such as justice, equality, accountability, consultation, fairness, respect for individual are already embedded in our moral and cultural heritage.
I wish to conclude my intervention [at this session] by reiterating my appreciation for our gracious Polish hosts.