Saturday

19th Jan 2019

Turkey seeking better EU ties as journalists await prison

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Paris on Friday (5 January) as part of a broader charm offensive to mend ties with the European Union.

Erdogan is set to meet French president Emmanuel Macron where the two plan to discuss security and defence among other issues.

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"I will make my first visit to Europe [since the beginning of the year 2018] to [meet] my friend Emmanuel Macron," Erdogan was cited as saying in the Daily Sabah, a pro-government daily.

Erdogan's move follows a continued government led-purge of the country, as some 17 journalists were put on trial over Christmas for their alleged role in a terrorist organisation. Around 150 journalists are now imprisoned in Turkey, more than any other country.

The European Commission on Thursday said it too seeks better ties with Ankara, given in part the EU's reliance on Turkey to keep migrants from disembarking towards Greece.

The two sides had in 2015 agreed to a EU-Turkey statement to stem migrant flows in exchange for billions in refugee aid and other political concessions, some of which, like a visa-waiver regime for Turkish nationals that has yet to materialise.

Mina Andreeva, a chief EU commission spokeswoman, told reporters in Brussels that Turkey remains a strategic partner on many fronts from security to migration.

"We continue to deliver on our part of the EU-Turkey agreement," she said, noting that relations are close.

"Of course, whenever there is a need for us to remind about European principles that need to be respected, we do so," she said.

Erdogan, in the wake of the failed July 2016 military coup, made repeated calls to reintroduce the death penalty. He has also tightened his presidential grip on power following a constitutional referendum last year.

Such moves have put the country at odds on its path towards European Union membership, which has since been put on pause. Calls by the European Parliament to put a formal end to the talks have largely been ignored by member states.

The European Council in late 2017 had instead decided to reorient pre-accession aid to Turkey with money being channeled into fields of the judiciary and civil society.

"Turkey for the time being is stepping away from the European Union," said EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in November.

Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also demanding a fresh start to German relations - despite Ankara threatening to send a German journalist, Deniz Yucel, to jail.

"From our side, we don't see any crisis. Turkey has no problem with Germany. But Germany has a problem with Turkey, and Germany does not miss an opportunity to attack Turkey," Cavusoglu said earlier this week.

Yucel works for the Die Welt newspaper and has been detained in Turkey for the past ten months without any formal charges.

Turkey poised for first EU budget cut

"Turkey is going in a direction that is the very opposite of EU standards," Siegfried Muresan, the MEP spearheading the cuts, has said.

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.

Opinion

Erdogan's diplomats have become 'Gulenist-busters'

Under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's diplomats have been turned into agents hunting supposed followers of his opponent Fethullah Gulen, and are now suspected of harassing journalists even in Belgium.

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