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Turkey must comply with European Court of Human Rights ruling and immediately release Selahattin Demirtaş

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On the initiative of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament is set to adopt today a resolution calling on Turkey to immediately release Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey, who has been in arbitrary detention since November 2016.

Demirtaş has been detained for more than four years on unsubstantiated terrorism-related charges, in spite of two binding rulings in favour of his release by the European Court of Human Rights. The Turkish government still refuses to release Demirtaş and on 7 January the Turkish court accepted a new indictment against him and 107 other people calling for 38 counts of life sentences.

S&D vice-president responsible for foreign affairs Kati Piri MEP said:

“Selahattin Demirtaş, the former People's Democratic Party co-chair and a tireless voice against Erdogan’s authoritarianism, has been in pre-trial detention for more than 1,500 days on completely bogus charges. He has been ripped away from his family and friends for over four years now.

“The ruling of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered his immediate release on 22 December, came as a surprise to absolutely no one: Demirtaş’ detention is based on solely political motives.

“As a member of the Council of Europe, Turkey is obliged to ensure the prompt implementation of this ruling. Instead of releasing him, Turkey slapped an additional political indictment on Demirtaş and 107 others just days later.

“It is time we start to apply pressure that Erdogan understands. The Turkish foreign minister’s visit to Brussels tomorrow is useless if there is only talk and no action from the side of the authorities. With political prisoners like Demirtaş and Osman Kavala in jail, there can be no improvement in relations.

“The S&D Group expects all EU capitals to be vocal. The HDP party represents 6 million people in Turkey. Their leaders, their MPs, their mayors and their activists have all been thrown in jail. It is high time the European Union spoke up for the rights of Turkey’s citizens.”

The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (the S&D Group) is the second largest political group in the European Parliament with 145 members from 25 EU member states

Turkey

Free Sinem Tezyapar!

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Sinem Tezyapar (pictured) is in jail in Istanbul. She was sentenced by a kangaroo court in Turkey on flawed evidence to 867 years in prison for allegedly belonging to a religious sect organised by Adnan Oktar. She has been imprisoned for her religious beliefs and because she is an intelligent and articulate woman with strong opinions and beliefs. She was an executive producer on Turkish Television. She was an inter-faith manager a religious commentator and a peace activist, writes James Wilson.

As a Muslim woman from Turkey, who believes in a better and more peaceful world, she had the audacity to try to develop a conversation with the people of Israel, and to publish comment on the relations between the islamic world and Israel with which the Erdogan Government disagreed.

She was the author of an opinion editorial entitled, “When will the Muslims Stop Blaming their Problems on the Jews?” She wrote the piece after Iran blamed a deadly earthquake in September 2013 on Israel. In it she writes, “Whenever a calamity falls upon Muslim majority countries, there is always a country to blame: Israel.”

She is the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice which contravenes all of the values and principles of individual religious freedom that we hold dear.

I appeal to the European Parliament and to the institutions of the European Union to examine in detail the case of Sinem Tezyapar and to urge Turkey’s President Erdogan to set her free. 

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Energy

Turkish Stream extended to the Balkans

Alex Ivanov. Moscow Correspondent

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While the passions around the Nord Stream-2 are not subsiding, and Washington is looking for new ways to stop the project, Russia has launched the second part of the Turkish Stream (TurkStream) in the Southern Balkans. Thus, this large-scale project takes its final shape, writes Alex Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

On 1 January, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic launched the Serbian section of the Turkish Stream - an interconnector gas pipeline that expanded the Serbian national gas transportation system.

In the new year, 2021, Serbia joined a number of Balkan countries that use one of the main Russian energy resources, overcame dependence on Ukrainian gas transit and ensured energy stability.

“The number of European countries that receive Russian gas with the help of Turkish Stream has grown to six. Now, along with Bulgaria, Greece, Northern Macedonia and Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina have provided themselves with such an opportunity, said Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Board. From Russia, gas is supplied via the Turkish Stream offshore gas pipeline to Turkey, from there to Bulgaria, and through the national gas transportation system of Bulgaria, it enters Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Two lines of the Turkish Stream will supply 15.75 billion cubic metres of gas per year, about 3 of them will be received by Serbia. Russian gas will allow the Serbs to attract foreign investors, help improve the environmental situation in the country and raise the standard of living of citizens. The festive launch of gas went like clockwork, but Russia and Serbia took a long time to reach this strategically important moment.

According to the initial plan, the entire volume of gas from the second line was planned to serve by transit through Turkey to the border with Bulgaria, where it would be done in the upgraded Bulgarian gas transport system, which is capable of transmitting 12 billion cubic meters of gas on border with Serbia. After the distribution of gas through its territory, the rest of the gas was to be supplied to the border with Hungary. By 2019, it was planned to synchronize all work on the construction of the Turkish Stream branches and simultaneously modernize the Bulgarian and Serbian gas transmission systems.

However, when the gas pipeline was already built by the Russian company Gazprom in 2019, work had only just begun in Serbia, while in Bulgaria it was not carried out at all. Gazprom, as a reliable supplier, booked additional capacities for gas transportation through the Ukrainian corridor for gas supplies to Serbia in 2020, although this was not profitable for Russia either in terms of the economy, or even more so in the political aspect.

In 2020, work on connecting Serbia and Bulgaria to the Turkish Stream was intensified, but in the fall of 2020 it turned out that Serbia (for various reasons) does not have time to fulfill its obligations before March-April 2021. This meant that in order to organize Russian gas supplies to Serbia in 2021, Gazprom would again have to ask Ukraine, contrary to its political and reputational interests, to sell additional transit capacity to deliver gas to Serbia. President Aleksandar Vucic personally had to solve the problem.

Already in November 2020, a Russian-Serbian working group was established, working under the direct control of the Serbian leader. After President Vucic took the situation into his own hands, the construction of the gas pipeline in the country began at a new pace. The round-the-clock work of specialists and builders of the two countries has brought a corresponding result.

In total, about 6 billion cubic metres of gas will be supplied to the domestic markets of these countries. The corresponding amount of fuel can be excluded from the alternative flow in transit through Ukraine. For the Serbian consumer, the launch of the "Balkan Stream" is especially important because the price of a cubic meter of gas will now drop from $ 240 to $ 155 at the exit from Bulgaria (the cost of internal transit will be added to them, about $ 12-14). This also means a revision of the cost of connecting households to gas. Alexander Vucic called this event "great and important for Serbia" and sincerely thanked the Russian leadership. "This is an important day for our country. I would like to thank our Russian friends who participated in the construction of the gas pipeline together with us. I congratulate you on your great work, it is of great importance for the industry, the development of the Serbian economy, as well as all the inhabitants of Serbia," he said at the launch ceremony of the gas pipeline.

Russia is completing its ambitious project in the Balkans. All the countries that wanted to get gas already have it. Turkish Stream is there in the Balkans. At the time, it was not possible to implement the South Stream, but now there is another route and it works.

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EU

Turkey: EU extends humanitarian support for refugees

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission has extended two humanitarian flagship programmes in Turkey until early 2022 that help over 1.8 million refugees to meet their basic needs and over 700,000 children to continue their education. Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “The humanitarian needs of refugees in Turkey persist and are even further  exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The EU is fully committed to support those in need, as we have done for the past years. I am glad that our flagship programmes help thousands of refugee families to have some normality in their daily lives. This is a true demonstration of European solidarity.” The programmes that have been extended until early 2022 are: the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) providing refugees with monthly cash assistance to meet their basic needs; the Conditional Cash Transfers for Education (CCTE), the largest EU-funded humanitarian education programme, providing support to families whose children attend school regularly. The full press release is available online.

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