Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has suggested, stressing that the country’s only path forward is through Europe.
“We very much regret retrograde activities like the attempt to close down Twitter, which didn’t really work anyway. Of course, those tendencies are something that have forced us to criticize the government,” Bildt told the Hürriyet Daily News on May 29, on the sidelines of the Stockholm Internet Forum.
Both online and offline freedom of expression are seemingly in danger in Turkey. What do you suggest to the Turkish government?
Well, I think it is important for the Turkish government to stay committed to economic and political reforms. Enormous progress has been made, no question about that. But more needs to be done. We very much regret retrograde activities like the attempt to close down Twitter, which didn’t really work anyway. Of course, those tendencies are something that have forced us to criticize the government.
Istanbul will host the Internet Governance Forum in September and YouTube is still banned. Isn’t it a bizarre situation?
I think it’s very good that the Internet Forum will be there. Because that will make it imperative for the Turkish government to ponder these questions. There are complicated legal issues that need to be sorted out. It’s in the interest of Turkey for its democratic and European development to resolve all of these issues in the good way. I think it’s a good occasion for the Turkish government to take steps in the right direction.
And maybe to revise its Internet policies?
Yes, from the side of the European Union we have been making our views on that point clear, as you know.
How will Turkey’s poor freedom of expression record have an impact on EU talks?
Well, you saw what we said in the annual [progress] report. These things are brought up. These issues will be brought up even more as we approach [accession] chapter 23 and others. They will be part of the process.
Prime Minister Erdoğan analyzed the European Parliament elections as being part of a “rise of racism” in Europe. Do you agree?
No, I don’t agree. One should not exaggerate. In certain countries such as France, clearly the situation is extremely worrying. In the United Kingdom, however, it’s a somewhat more complex, more anti-EU than anti-everything else. But the worrying thing in that respect is France.
As one of the best friends of Turkey, what is your message to Turkish officials?
Make the political and economic reforms that are necessary to continue on the European path. That is the only path that will lead Turkey forward as it approaches 2023, with nine years left to its extremely important anniversary [the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic].