'Italians are indifferent to Turkey protests'

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Four people have died since the unrest in Turkey began on 31st May. Photo: Marco Longori/AFP
12:11 CEST+02:00
Italians are indifferent to the protests taking place in Istanbul, but this is a big mistake, commentator Mario Deaglio wrote in an editorial in La Stampa today.

He said Turkey is more important for Italy, and for Europe, than one would normally think. Turkey is especially important for Italy’s energy supplies, he added.

“Uncertainties and misunderstandings with Ankara could result, at least indirectly, with a disruption in the flow of energy supplies.”

Strategically, Rome is also closer to Istanbul than London or many other capitals in northern Europe, he continued.  From banking and food to home appliances and construction, Turkey is also a very important trade partner for Italy.

The commentary came after Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino said yesterday that the protests are the “first serious test” in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

EU foreign policy chief CatherineAshton urged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to abide by European democratic standards as Germany also warned a violent crackdown on protesters could harm Turkey's bid for membership of the bloc, AFP reported.

Delivering her first public statement on Turkey's troubles in a speech to the European Parliament, Ashton said Erdogan's response with protesters must be "engagement not antagonism."

"This is an important moment for Turkey. A chance for it to renew itscommitment to European values," she said. "I am convinced it can meet this challenge."

Recalling that EU ministers are to decide this month whether to open a new chapter for the first time in several years in Ankara's stalled bid for membership, Ashton said: "Turkey as a candidate country needs to aspire to the highest possible democratic practices".

Of the 35 so-called policy chapters EU candidates must negotiate, Turkeyhas opened talks on only 13.

The European Union must not pull back from Turkey despite concerns overErdogan's handling of the protests, Ashton said.

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"This is not the moment to disengage from Turkey but to engage moreclosely. And for Turkey to engage more closely with the EU too."

The nationwide unrest first erupted on 31st May after police cracked down on a campaign to save an Istanbul park from redevelopment, spiralling into mass displays of anger against Erdogan.

Four people, including a policeman, have died in the unrest and nearly 5,000 demonstrators have been injured.

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