Saturday

17th Nov 2018

EU silence on Turkey abuses is 'shameful'

EU stoicism in the face of Turkey's crackdown on journalists and opposition is shameful, says the chief editor of Turkey's opposition daily Cumhuriyet.

"Unfortunately the leaders of the EU have not been raising their voices about this authoritarianism in Turkey because of the agreement about refugees," said Can Dundar in Brussels on Tuesday (14 June).

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Dundar, along with colleague Erdem Gul, faced life sentences after a publishing an article last May that showed how Turkey's national intelligence agency was illegally supplying weapons to jihadists inside Syria.

"Turkey has been supporting radical Islamist groups for several years and we had been writing about this for several months and finally we had the proof," he said.

Turkey ranks among the world's worst nations for press freedom, ranked at 151 out 180 countries on the Reporters without Borders index. More than 30 journalists are now in jail.

"They [EU] prefer the price of our freedom for an agreement on refugees. I think this is shameful and I've said this from the very beginning," he said.

Dundar told journalists that the EU and its leadership had reduced refugees to a numbers game at the expense of supporting a large population of Turkish nationals who want to break free of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His criticism against the EU appears, in part, justified.

Resignations and migration deals

On Tuesday (14 June), the EU's top envoy to Turkey, Hansjoerg Haber, resigned following remarks he made last month that had infuriated Erdogan.

The EU commission refused to comment on the reasons for his resignation.

"We as the European Union continue to work with Turkey, Turkey is a key partner," EU commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said when pressed.

And on Monday, Preben Aamann, spokesman for EU council chief Donald Tusk, said in a tweet that the sharp drop in migrants arriving in Greece is "hard evidence that EU strategy on migration works".

More than one million people arrived last year to seek international protection in the EU. Of those, some 850,000 landed on the Greek islands after crossing the Aegean from Turkey. Few make the boat journey today following an 18 March deal between the EU and Ankara.

Keeping those numbers low and the special attention given to Turkish rank and file by the likes of Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel appears to have emboldened Erdogan to further tighten his grip on power.

MPs immunity lifted

He replaced the more moderate prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu with Binali Yildirim, a close ally.

Yildirim said on Tuesday that Ankara would not change its anti-terrorism laws, despite EU-level threats to maintain visa restrictions on Turkish nationals.

Erdogan is using the anti-terrorism laws to jail critics.

Earlier this month, he lifted the immunity of dozens of MPs after signing a controversial bill.

The vast majority of the files against Turkish politicians target the opposition with many facing jail for either insulting the president or for vague affiliations to Kurdish separatists.

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