Thursday

23rd May 2019

EU and US take different lines on Turkey crackdown

  • A police vehicle at Taksim Square, Istanbul after last week's failed coup (Photo: Reuters)

The EU has warned Turkey that its post-coup crackdown is “unacceptable”, but the US has described the actions, which include mass-scale detentions, as a “reasonable” response.

The EU foreign service, which speaks on behalf of all 28 member states, said in a statement on Thursday (21 July), that Turkey’s purge on academics, the army, the judiciary and media in the wake of last weekend’s events was “unacceptable”.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Events claimed 246 lives, Erdogan said

It called on Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “respect” the “right of all individuals concerned to a fair trial” and to uphold “core fundamental rights” amid a new state of emergency that looks likely to stay in place for months on end.

It also said that “any temporary suspension of the European Convention of Human Rights needs to follow the rules foreseen for such a derogation”, but it did not elaborate what those rules were.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier added that “only provable involvement in illegal acts, not suspected political leanings, should trigger governmental action”.

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, said: “We're worried that Turkey is now developing increasingly authoritarian traits … The coup attempt needs to be condemned but it's not a free licence for such actions”.

The harsh words come after Turkey detained or fired from their jobs more than 60,000 suspected coup sympathisers in the past week alone.

Erdogan has blamed the events on an Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the US, with the Turkish president describing the pro-Gulen movement in the country as a “cancer” and a “virus” in TV remarks.

The crackdown intensified on Wednesday when pro-Erdogan MPs backed a three-month state of emergency that allows the government to pass new laws by decree and to detain people without trial.

Turkey’s suspension of the human rights convention, also on Thursday, could pave the way to reinstating the death penalty in what would mean a definitive end to its EU membership bid.

A contact from one Gulen-linked NGO in Brussels said in an email to EUobserver: “I have been told by my relatives that civilians are … being tortured, they are denied to have a lawyer and even their family can’t see them, which means that basic human rights have been violated.

It is a desperate situation and I don’t know what can we do about this”.

The US has also urged Erdogan to respect human rights, but its criticism has been far less strident than that of Europe.

Speaking in Washington on Thursday at a meeting of the anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition, which coordinates air-strikes and other operations against the jihadist group in Syria and Iraq, US secretary of state John Kerry said only that Turkey had pledged that its coalition membership “will not be affected by the events that have happened”.

His spokesman, John Kirby, said the same day: “Turkey’s not just a friend, they’re a Nato ally … We take this relationship very seriously”.

He noted that “we can all understand that that kind of threat [the coup] needed to be taken seriously” and described the mass-scale arrests as a “reasonable” response.

“I’m not justifying every decision that they’re making and I’m not defending it, but I think it should be reasonable to anybody to understand that they would have to investigate and to look as widely as they feel they need to to try to get better information … about who was responsible”.

’Fresh blood’

Speaking to the Reuters news agency also on Thursday, Erdogan vowed to rebuild the military with loyal personnel.

“Within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood”, he said.

He referred to the Gulen movement as a “separatist terrorist organisation” and “traitors”, whom he vowed to hunt down “wherever they might be”.

He also said that a decision by the US-based S&P ratings agency to downgrade Turkey’s investment status meant that it had “sided with the coup, not with democracy”.

With the Turkish lira plunging and the cost of Turkish government borrowing soaring, he tried to reassure foreign investors by adding: “This state of emergency is not a curfew. People will still be on the street minding their own business and getting on with daily life”.

Investor fears

His deputy PM, Mehmet Simsek, added in separate remarks on the NTV broadcaster that: “There will be maximum sensitivity on economic freedom.”

"The state of emergency in Turkey won't include restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press etc. It isn't martial law of 1990s," he later added on Twitter.

The crackdown comes after tanks, soldiers and jets appeared in Ankara and Istanbul last Friday and a military group issued a statement saying it had seized control in order to protect Turkey from Erdogan's authoritarian rule.

The soldiers later clashed with pro-Erdogan crowds, with Erdogan telling Reuters on Thursday that 246 people had lost their lives and that more than 2,000 had been wounded in the events.

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.

Death penalty not on Turkey's agenda, says MP

A Turkish MP plays down the possibility of capital punishment being reintroduced, despite hints by president Erdogan that he would push for it following last month's failed coup.

News in Brief

  1. Some EU citizens turned away at UK polling stations
  2. Switzerland unlikely to sign draft EU deal
  3. UK sacked defence secretary backs Johnson for leader
  4. Dutch voter turnout so far slightly down on 2014
  5. Report: Hungary's Fidesz 'bought' Belgian official
  6. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  7. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  8. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Polling booths open in UK's limbo EU election
  2. Dutch PM puts EU exit on agenda with election gamble
  3. EU development aid used to put European police in Senegal
  4. EU should stop an insane US-Iran war
  5. EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday
  6. Dutch MPs: EU sanctions should bear Magnitsky name
  7. Far-right hate speech flooded Facebook ahead of EU vote
  8. Key details on how Europeans will vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us