Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Turkey warned executions would end its EU bid

  • Pro-Erdogan crowds helped end the attack on Erdogan's authority (Photo: Reuters)

EU states have warned Turkey that its membership bid would end if it decided to reinstall the death penalty to punish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s adversaries.

“The EU recalls that the unequivocal rejection of the death penalty is an essential element of the Union acquis [legal codex]”, foreign ministers said in a joint statement in Brussels on Monday (18 July).

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EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini said after their meeting that “it’s up to Turkey to consider if being an [EU] candidate country is still something that falls into their desires and aspirations”.

She said the EU ministers did not discuss whether to suspend Turkey-EU accession talks or whether Turkey is still safe enough for Greece to send back refugees there under the EU-Turkey migration deal.

She added that the EU is still being “friendly” toward Turkey, but that its “friendly attitude is first of all toward the people of Turkey”.

“The numbers we’ve seen in terms of arrests and also in terms of victims [of violence] … is something that concerns us”, she said.

Mogherini spoke amid reports that Turkish authorities had arrested thousands of judges, prosecutors and soldiers over alleged coup links.

Images on social media also showed lynchings of people by pro-Erdogan mobs while Turkish police stood by and watched.

Akin Ozturk, a former Turkish air force commander, told the state-run Anadolu news agency that he had planned the coup. His head, face and upper body showed signs of torture on TV.

Turkey scrapped the death penalty in 2004 in line with its EU bid.

But Erdogan on Sunday told crowds he would discuss executions of the alleged coup leaders with the government.

'No concessions on values'

Speaking in Brussels on Monday, French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said: "It would be unbelievable if the death penalty was re-established in Turkey".

He said Turkish reformists should ask themselves if they wanted progress to be "abruptly stopped" and that the EU would make "no concessions on values".

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “Reintroduction of the death penalty would prevent successful negotiations to join the EU”.

Steffen Seibert, chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said in Berlin that Merkel had phoned Erdogan.

“A country that has the death penalty can't be a member of the European Union and the introduction of the death penalty in Turkey would therefore mean the end of accession negotiations”, he said.

Nato does not require its members not to execute people, but the defence alliance reinforced the EU’s appeals on Monday.

Its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, also phoned the Turkish president.

“Being part of a unique community of values, it is essential for Turkey, like all other allies, to ensure full respect for democracy and its institutions, the constitutional order, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms”, Stoltenberg said afterward.

'EU should support Turkey'

In a sign of the mood in Ankara, Egemen Bagis, Erdogan’s former EU affairs minister, said on social media: “Do you think Turks care about what EU states at this point? We are furious”.

“EU should support Turkey not Feto”, he added, referring to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in the US and who was also accused of plotting Erdogan’s downfall.

Speaking in a statement on Monday, John Bass, the US ambassador to Turkey, said: "Unfortunately, some ... public figures have speculated that the United States in some way supported the coup attempt.

This is categorically untrue, and such speculation is harmful to the decades-long friendship between two great nations".

He said that if Turkey submitted an extradition request for Gulen, then it would be "considered" by US courts.

MEPs fear further 'Putinisation' of Turkey

MEPs criticised the harsh crackdown in Turkey after last week's failed coup, and warned that Ankara must not go down the road towards an authoritarian regime, in an extraordinary meeting of the EP's foreign affairs committee.

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