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8th Mar 2021

Lifting emergency laws could unfreeze Turkey's EU bid

  • Turkey is set for snap elections on 24 June (Photo: David Stanley)

The European Union may consider unfreezing accession talks with Turkey should the country lift its state of emergency decrees.

Christian Berger, the EU's ambassador to Turkey, said removing the state of emergency would be seen as a "very symbolic" gesture.

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"If that were to change then I think member states would take this up again and reflect again on what to do next," the Austrian national told reporters in Istanbul on Wednesday (30 May).

Turkey's state of emergency has led to mass arrests, arbitrary sackings, and allegations of torture since the failed coup in 2016. Last month, it was extended for the seventh time.

It is unclear to what extent Vienna, which takes over the EU presidency in the second half of the year, would submit to reopening talks, given that Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for an end to Turkey's accession bid.

The EU and Ankara also held a frosty summit in Varna, Bulgaria, in March where the two sides remained at odds over numerous issues when it comes to rule of law, mass jailing of journalists, detention of Greek soldiers, and wider conflicts with Syria and Cyprus.

Berger's comments come ahead of a delegation of EU officials who will be arriving on Thursday in Ankara to discuss outstanding issues to lift short stay visas on Turks travelling to Europe.

This includes, among other things, demands to reform Turkey's anti-terror laws.

Accelerating the visa waiver is an EU concession following a deal with Turkey in March 2016 to stem the flow of migrants to the Greek islands.

Turkey had earlier this year submitted its plans to the European Commission on how to sort the terror laws to meet EU conditions.

But Berger's comments also come ahead of moves by Turkey's president Erdogan to further consolidate his political grip with presidential and parliament snap elections set for 24 June.

The country is grappling with a spike in inflation, unemployment,a and a budget deficit that has increased 58 percent in the past year. Erdogan is also facing allied opposition parties and candidates bent on unseating him.

Should he win another five years as president, then the new constitution voted through a controversial referendum last year, would most likely come into force a day later.

The constitution has already granted Erdogan a stronger role in appointing judges, a move criticised by the Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

The whole is part of a wider shift away from a parliament system of governance to one that concentrates power into the executive.

"More powers are now moving to the executive and what we would see as control functions of a parliament vis a vis a government or the executive is not as strong any more," said Berger.

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