Monday

21st May 2018

Turkey urges EU not to break off ties

  • Human Rights Watch said in a report there was "evidence of … serious abuse in detention" (Photo: Reuters)

Turkey has said it wants to maintain EU accession talks, as foreign ministers and leaders meet to discuss its human rights crisis.

"We are determined to maintain this process [EU accession talks] regardless of all obstacles. We do not have any intentions to withdraw our bid", Bekir Bozdag, a Turkish deputy PM, said while on a visit to Strasbourg, France, on Sunday (15 October), the Reuters news agency reported.

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  • Erdogan hammered the EU in Ankara on Friday (Photo: Flickr)

"Turkey will strengthen the EU, and gain strength after being granted full EU membership," he added.

"We have been striving for this membership since 1960 … Are there any other countries that have waited [so long] at EU's door? No," he said.

Mehmet Simsek, another deputy PM, also met with EU finance commissioner Pierre Moscovici in the margins of a G20 event in Washington on Friday.

"Nice catching up with my friend," Simsek tweeted later. "Useful discussion with @memetsimsek about the situation in Turkey and relations with the EU," Moscovici said.

The Turkish diplomacy comes as EU foreign ministers, on Monday, and later EU leaders, on Thursday, prepare to discuss future relations.

That "situation in Turkey" has seen Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan jail thousands of opponents, including EU nationals, amid reports of torture, and allegations of political hostage-taking.

"We have very many cases of people who in our opinion have been unjustly imprisoned," German chancellor Angela Merkel said in a podcast on Saturday.

She voiced "great concern" over the events.

She had said during German elections last month she would call to end Turkey's EU bid.

But she mellowed her tone on Saturday, adding: "We [EU leaders] will certainly not take any decision [at Thursday's summit], but I would like to listen to the views of my colleagues on bilateral relations with Turkey".

Red Notice

Erdogan has also gone after his opponents in EU states by filing Red Notices for extradition at the International police agency, Interpol.

That campaign suffered a blow last week, when Spain declined to hand over a Turkish-German dissident and writer, Dogan Akhanli, whom Turkey wanted on terrorism charges.

But the crackdown continued at home, with Turkish authorities issuing arrest warrants for 100 former police officers accused of plotting against Erdogan.

Turkey has put more than 50,000 people behind bars since a failed coup last July.

They include over 120 journalists as well as human rights defenders, such as Idil Eser, the director for British charity Amnesty International in Turkey, who risks 15 years in prison.

The New York-based NGO, Human Rights Watch, said in a report that there was "evidence of … serious abuse in detention, involving scores of individuals".

It spoke of "allegations that police severely beat and threatened detainees, stripped them naked, and in some cases threatened them with sexual assault or sexually assaulted them".

EU leaders should "publicly call for full investigations into reported cases of torture and ill-treatment in detention and of enforced disappearances", the NGO said.

Draft conclusions

EU leaders are expected to discuss whether to cut Turkey's €4 billion in EU pre-accession funds up to 2020.

But a version of the draft summit conclusions, dated 9 October, said the EU was still interested in keeping its deal with Turkey on stopping Syrian refugees from going to Greece.

The leaders will agree "to consolidate and deepen this approach on all migration routes", the text said.

They will voice "continued full commitment to our cooperation with Turkey on migration as well as support to the Western Balkans", it added.

The Turkish overture, by Bozdag in Strasbourg, followed more fiery words by Erdogan himself last Friday.

"They [the EU] are still wasting our time [in accession talks]. It is not us but rather you who are going to run away from this [wrestling mat]," he said on TV in Ankara.

"If you are sincere, make a statement and let's finish this [process]. We do not need you. There is a formula of mutual needs," he said.

'I thought I was safe in Europe'

Arrest of Turkish dissident has again highlighted the way rogue regimes use Interpol to hunt their enemies inside the EU.

EU summit shifts mood on Turkey amid aid cuts

EU leaders at their summit spent some three hours deliberating on relations with Turkey before asking the EU commission to come up with a plan on cutting and reorienting some €4.5 billion in pre-accession aid.

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