NATO has started to take on new roles, especially after the Cold War period, among which combating international terrorism is its first priority. The expansion of NATO’s operation area from the former Yugoslavia to Afghanistan is also a new development NATO is operating among religiously and ethnically diverse populations from numerous regions. Hence, the Organization’s operation locations — at an equal distance from all religions and cultures — is of the utmost importance in accomplishing its mission. NATO is currently preparing to welcome its new secretary general, and Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the lead, among the other strong candidates, in consideration for this post.
The US, Germany, and other significant NATO members have already asserted their support for Rasmussen. Moreover, Denmark has been conducting lobbying campaigns in support of its prime minister. Yet, since Rasmussen has an unfavorable record in combating terrorism and in conducting dialogue between civilizations, he is the worst candidate for the NATO or any organization of this kind:
Copenhagen Is Broadcasting ‘Terrorist TV’
First, Rasmussen tolerated the PKK’s (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) activities in Denmark, and gave permission to the terrorist organization launching a television channel in Copenhagen: Roj TV, perceived as a culture channel by the Danish authorities, which enhances the so-called suppressed Kurds’ language and culture. However, to ignore the close relations between Roj TV and the PKK, one should be blind or malicious.
The TV channel repeatedly broadcasts PKK terrorists to the screen. Moreover, most of these terrorists are well known — some are leaders of the Organization or even suspects on Interpol’s wanted list.
Moreover, the TV channel calls Kurdish people to perform acts of violence and terrorism against Turkey every day. Despite the fact that inciting violence is banned by the EU and Danish law as well, Denmark did not take any measures to discourage this persistent malice.
Turkey has warned Denmark on the matter numerous times. Not only Turkey, but also the United States (US) has pointed to dubious relations between Roj TV, Mesopotamia TV and the PKK and called for the channel to be shut down. Addressing a letter to Danish Justice Minister Lene Espersen, the Washington administration asked for PKK TVs, Roj TV and Mesopotamia TV, broadcasting from the Danish capital, Copenhagen, be immediately banned. The letter included US experts’ remarks as to which Roj TV contents violated Danish laws and
which ones were considered permissible by the freedom of speech. The US letter stressed it was inappropriate for Denmark to allow a TV channel banned by France and Britain to continue to broadcast from its territory and requested the properties of the PKK linked Roj TV and Mesopotamia TV be confiscated. The Danish newspaper, Berlinske Tidende, made the US letter its leading report and wrote the letter put Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen into a difficult situation. Yet the Rasmussen Government did not take these warnings seriously, only postponing the solution by saying, “The police are investigating the issue,” or “our judges are going to focus on the matter.” Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller did not respond to the questions pertaining to the US letter. Former Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen from the Danish Social Liberal Party harshly criticized Rasmussen. Noting the letter which came in a period of close cooperation between Denmark and US was very significant, Mr. Petersen said the problem should have been solved before the US got involved and Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Copenhagen and tension in bilateral relations should have been thereby precluded.
The Turkish prime minister Erdogan was meeting with Rasmussen as he tours European capitals in November 2005 to discuss the prospects of Turkey’s EU membership bid. However when Mr. Erdogan realized that Danish authorities let the PKK-backed Roj TV’s correspondent to attend the Erdogan-Rasmussen joint press conference at Rasmussen’s office Erdogan declined to take part in the briefing. Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen said he regretted that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan didn’t attend a joint press conference and further said it was a ``basic principle that no government should in any way influence the freedom of the media,’’ adding that ``precisely the principle of freedom of speech is absolutely fundamental as far as EU membership goes. It’s crucial that applicant countries 100 percent fulfill the political criteria, including freedom of expression.’’ At this point we should ask Mr. Rasmussen, can Turkey allow an Al Qaida TV station in Ankara. If a radio station encourages Danish people to violence can Denmark defends that station in the name of freedoms?
Former Turkish Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek harshly criticized his Danish counterpart Lene Espersen in 2007 acusing Denmark of allowing terrorist broadcasting. The Danish official said his ministry is awaiting documents from Turkey to initiate legal proceedings over the TV channel, but Turkish minister Cicek answered that documents proving links between the channel and the PKK have been sent to Denmark several times already.
The terrorist relations between Roj TV and the PKK were obvious and the Danish government did not need any clues to figure out this connection. MED TV, the first channel established by the PKK, was banned by the British television authority ITC in 1999. The terrorist organization then moved its TV channel to France, under the name “MEDYA TV.” However, the France did not welcome the channel either, and it was closed down by the court after a short period of broadcasting.
The PKK moved to Denmark after the UK and France and found a government willing to help its cause. While Roj TV was broadcasting from Denmark, it was banned in Germany due to its terrorist roots. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble delared that the station’s broadcasting in Germany was banned as of June 19, and in announcing the ban the Interior Ministry said Roj TV was a mouthpiece of the PKK, which has been outlawed in Germany and has used terrorist methods against civilians and officials.
The PKK’s reaction to Germany’s stance was to kidnap German mountain climbers in Turkey. However, Germany did not yield to the PKK’s blackmailing and insisted on its decision on banning the TV channel. Indeed, the PKK is labeled in Danish law as a “terrorist organization” as it was by the US, the EU, the UK, Germany, and Turkey. Yet, Rasmussen continued to protect the terrorist organization’s activities by tolerating them. Thus, the PKK and its branches have freely carried out their activities in Denmark as if it was a civil society organization.
Now, the prime minister of this government, who has turned a blind eye towards terrorism, and is even seen as a supporter of terrorism, is preparing to be the head of NATO which regards combating terrorism as one of its primary missions. If Rasmussen becomes the Secretary General of NATO, this could possibly affect numerous NATO policies, especially those related to combating terrorism. Moreover, this could lead many countries including but not limited to Turkey, to question their confidence in the Organization’s policies.
Rasmussen’s stance during the “Cartoon Crisis” is another fact which makes him a weird figure for the Secretary General of NATO.
Just after the release of the caricatures in Jyllands-Posten newspaper on September 30th, which picture Muslims and their prophet as terrorists, Turkey warned Denmark to be aware of the incoming danger. Ambassadors of ten Muslim countries pioneered by former Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Denmark sent a signed petition to the Prime Minister Rasmussen to protest the events. The ambassadors asked for a meeting with Rasmussen to evaluate the crisis and call for the peace atmosphere.
Turkey aimed to bring the representatives of the Muslim countries in Copenhagen and the Denmark Government together during that crisis. However, Rasmussen did not appraise Turkey’s good will and his government implied that they did not need Turkey’s mediation on the issue. Rasmussen rejected the meeting request rudely. The caricature crisis spread to all Muslim countries as a result, and more radicals like Iran became dominant in anti-Denmark campaigns gradually, yet decisively. Whilst Denmark’s interests started to be damaged from these campaigns, Rasmussen declared that he personally condemned the caricatures, yet, he continued to evaluate the issue within the context of freedom of speech. His management of crisis was not only unsuccessful but also was narrow sided. Rasmussen ignored dialog and underestimated Turkey and its soft power. Today, for many Muslims, Denmark is a country which insulted their Prophet.
Is not the Rasmussen’s taking post going to disrupt NATO’s operations in Afghanistan while the perception toward Denmark is highly problematic among the Muslim countries?
Turkey’s EU Membership
Rasmussen’s opposition to Turkey’s EU membership on the ground that Turkey has a different cultural-religious background is the third reason which damages Rasmussen’s image in the eyes of Turkey and Muslim countries. For Rasmussen, who seems as if he does not make religion based politics, Turkey does not have a place in the EU.
Rasmussen had a significant role in Denmark’s opposition to Turkey’s EU membership as contrary to the stance of other countries in the Northern Europe.
He in 2005 said that European Union politicians must listen to citizens who oppose Turkish membership in the bloc and argued "many Europeans are uncertain about the perspective of Turkish membership. We must discuss it openly and frankly". In the words of the AP, "resembling to Europe’s fanatical rightist politicians, Rasmussen became a problematic figure who discourages Turkey on the way to the EU membership" and he called all of the Turkey opponents to unite against Turkish membership. It is obvious that main reason for his opposition to Turkey is the Turks’ different religion.
The Prime Minister Rasmussen also chose to support Turkey’s opponents in almost all issues whenever Turkey had a disagreement with other countries. His behavior towards Turkey was scorning and perception of Turkey for Rasmussen was “an Eastern country waiting at the EU’s door.” Since he has been opposing Turkey’s EU membership as the first Muslim country to be in the EU, it is not hard to guess to what extent Rasmussen would damage the relations between the NATO and other Muslim countries.
Indeed, it is like a bad joke…
While we were happy for getting rid of the Bush administration, Danish version of Bush is preparing to be the head of NATO during the Obama presidency.
Translated by Dilek Aydemir, USAK
Language Edit by Kaitlin MacKenzie, USAK