Turkey: Europe Expects Turkey’s Help To Overcome Cartoon Crisis

The cartoon crisis has once again reminded Europe of Turkey’s importance. The European Union (EU) Term President Austria emphasized Turkey’s vital importance in maintaining dialogue with Muslim countries, and the union expects Ankara to play a pivotal role in the solution to the crisis. The insulting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed created a troublesome situation for European countries. The Council of Europe, the European Commission and European Parliament (EP) representatives emphasized freedom of expression must be used in a responsible way. Austria, leading the opposition to Turkey’s full membership on October 3, announced that a joint dialogue initiative will be instigated with Muslim countries and declared Turkey will play a key role in solving the crisis. Former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen said the publishing of the controversial drawings was a big mistake. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso mellowed in support to Denmark and said freedom of expression must be used responsibly. A bill on the cartoon crisis will be put to the vote at an EP General Council assembly today. Austrian Minister for European Affairs Hans Winkler, in the speech made during yesterday’s meeting, underlined that freedom of expression cannot be used irresponsibly. He said that limits must not be exceeded when dealing with the religious freedoms. The cartoon crisis shook the mutual confidence that existed between the EU and the Muslim world at its foundations. We must ask ourselves where we went wrong. The Austrian minister reminded that an initiative of dialogue must begin to overcome the crisis, and that Turkey will play a crucial role in the process. Winkler said he is in close contact with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Barroso, who earlier gave full support to the Danish government, has recently softened his discourse and said: Freedom of expression is not a disputable right but is based on the individual using it in a responsible way as it is with other rights. We must respect the Muslims’ religious sensitivities and tolerate them to protest the caricatures in a peaceful way. Barroso reminded that freedom of expression is not limitless and there are restricting articles in all European Union countries. I agree with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said he respects Islam and supports no action intended to degrade Muslims. I want to tell the Danish people, the most open and tolerant society of the world, that the EU is with them. Former Danish PM: Cartoons were mistake Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen received a severe rebuke from his predecessor Poul Nyrupp Rasmussen. The former prime minister said the publication of the scandalous cartoons was outright irresponsibility, and that Rasmussen’s refusal to meet ambassadors from Islamic countries was an incomprehensible attitude. In his speech at the European Parliament, the former prime minister said on behalf of the Social Democrats that it is wrong to force the entire Danish population to pay for the mistake made by one Danish newspaper. Other Danish parliamentary members focused on the issue of the commercial boycotts. Karin Riis Jorgensen argued that European Union officials had failed to support Denmark in handling the cartoon crisis: How sensible would it be to talk of European camaraderie when a European company boycotts goods from another European country? asked Jorgensen in condemnation of Carrefour, a French company participating in the boycott of Danish products. Jens Peter Bonde, a Danish Democratic parliamentarian, said: Islam is not above Danish laws. Denmark cannot make concessions to freedom of expression. The Christian Democrats and the Socialists, the two largest groups in the European Parliament, shared the opinion that careless use of the right of freedom of expression cannot be tolerated, because respect must be shown towards religious values. We need to show far more respect for Muslims in Europe if we want them to show equal respect to us too, said Cohn Bendit, spokesman for the Greens, criticizing discrimination against Muslim migrants. Several French rightwing extremists believe that Turkey’s membership to the European Union should be shelved because of what happened during the cartoon crisis. According to Javier Solana, High Representative of the European Union for Common Foreign and Defense Policies, the United Nations will have the assurance that respect for different religions will not be violated. The idea is to bridge the gap between Europe and the Islamic world once again, said Solana at a meeting with Jordanian King, Abdullah II. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero meeting with representatives of the Islamic Society in Spain reiterated the joint call for calm, an appeal that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier shared with his Spanish counterpart.