Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Turkish leader parts way with EU

Just a day after pushing his prime minister out of government, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan hardened his stance against the EU and announced new steps to strengthen his power.

In an address on TV on Friday (6 May), Erdogan said he had refused to change Turkish law on terrorism as required by the EU to grant Turkey visa liberalisation.

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  • PM Davutoglu resigned on 6 May over divergences with Erdogan (Photo: Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας)

"We will go our way, you go yours," he told the EU.

"First of all, you should change your stance that allows terror tents right next to the European Parliament. You will create tents, give them shelter and tell us you are doing this for democracy," he said, referring to past Kurdish protests in the EU capital.

On Wednesday, the European Commission said that Turkey has made "impressive progress" to meet the requirements for the visa waiver but still needed to work on five 'blocks" - document security, migration management, public order and security, fundamental rights, and readmission of irregular migrants.

In the block on fundamental rights, the commission said that "the most important benchmark" still to be met by Turkey was the revision of its legislation and practices on terrorism.

Turkey has "to ensure the right to liberty and security, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, of assembly and association in practice," the commission said in its report on Turkey's progress.

"The Turkish authorities will need to address this benchmarkas a matter of urgency," the commission added.

No concession

On Thursday, Turkish EU affairs minister Volkan Bozkir said that it was "not possible" to modify legislation on terrorism because Turkey was fighting various terrorist organisations.

He said that Turkish authorities already met some EU demands and introduced "the concept of immediate and obvious danger that threatens public security".

"However, we don't have the luxury of making further changes," he was quoted as saying by the Daily Sabah newspaper.

Erdogan's showdown with the EU comes after prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu resigned on Thursday over divergences between the two men, including on Turkey's EU policy.

Davutoglu, who was the main negotiatior of the agreement with the EU to reduce the flow of migrants to Europe in exchange for an accelerated visa liberalisation, a €6 billion fund for Syrian refugees in Turkey and the opening of one new chapter on EU accession talks.

Erdogan, who recently stepped up military operations against the Kurds as well as arrests of opponents and journalists, appeared reluctant to make concessions and put pressure on several European countries to stifle critical voices.

The Turkish president has not yet said who he would choose to replace Davutoglu. But in his speech on Friday he said he would move further toward a presidential model for Turkey's institutions, concentrating power around his own palace

New constitution

He said that the country needed a new constitution with a presidential system and that it should be put to a referendum as soon as possible.

"This is an urgent requirement, not my personal agenda," Erdogan said.

Since his election as president in 2014, after 10 years as prime minister, Erdogan has tried to increase the powers of the president office.

A failure to win a majority in a general election in June last year and new elections in November prevented him from doing it.

The resignation of Davutoglu, who was considered a moderate in the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), could leave Erdogan free to change the balance of powers in Turkey.

Erdogan's inflexibility on visa requirements is likely to put the EU in a difficult situation.

The European Commission, despite recommanding the lifting of visa requirements, said that Turkey would have to meet all the benchmarks.

The European Parliament said that there would be "no shortcut in parliamentary procedures" and that it would start discussing the visa waiver "only once all benchmarks have been fulfilled".

Turkey, for its part, threatened in April not to implement its part of the migrant agreement if it did not get visa liberalisation in June.

EU says Turkey almost ready for visa-free access

First visa-free Turkish visitors to EU possible on 1 July if Turkey meets five more criteria on time. Most Turkish people to face long wait for EU-compliant biometric passports.

Analysis

How the EU helped erode Turkish democracy

By neglecting Turkey for years and by failing to find its own solution on refugees the EU lost leverage on Turkey and finds itself played "like a yoyo" by its hardman leader.

EP stops work on Turkey visa waiver

The EU parliament has stopped all work on the commission's plan to lift visas for Turkish nationals. The move could spell the end of the EU-Turkey migrant deal.

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