Thursday

18th Jul 2019

Turkey backsliding on rights and rule of law, says EU

  • Erdogan's threats to impose the death penalty and his sharp increase in powers has thrown EU relations into a spin (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The EU commission says accession talks with Turkey to join the European Union hang in the balance following a backsliding on the rule of law and fundamental rights.

The negative prognosis, issued Wednesday (9 November) in a 102-page annual report, risks stoking further tensions between the two sides.

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

  • Hahn: 'gravely concerned' (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU's enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn issued unequivocal criticism of the reaction to this summer's failed coup, which has included a purge of 129,000 government employees, the closure of hundreds of media outlets, and the jailing of activists, journalists and academics.

"We are gravely concerned about the degradation of the rule of law and democracy unfolding in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt. In its own interest, Turkey urgently needs to stop moving away from the EU," he said in statement.

Hahn had previously backed opening two key negotiation chapters on fundamental rights and the rule of law as part of accession negotiations.

"I have to admit, today I am not quite sure if this is still possible," he told reporters in Brussels. His comments was part of a larger enlargement diagnosis that also covers Western Balkan nations.

But Turkey's progress report, adopted unanimously among all EU commissioners, is likely to sharpen outstanding issues over a migrant swap deal signed between the two sides in March.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wanted a quick decision in quotes reported by Turkish media earlier on Wednesday.

"They say the negotiations should be reviewed. It's too late now. Review it as soon as possible and make sure that you do not delay the final decision," he said.

The report noted, among other things, that judges and prosecutors continued to be removed from office and that freedom of expression had been muffled.

The EU wants to keep the migrant deal in place given the large drop of migrant and asylum seeker arrivals crossing the Aegean to reach the Greek islands.

Ankara has refused to give in to EU demands that it reform its anti-terror laws as a condition to lift short-term EU visas on Turkish nationals.

It has also refused to implement an earlier EU readmission agreement to send non-Turkish nationals back to Turkey unless the visas restrictions are lifted.

The visa waiver is part of the March migrant deal that had also included a €6 billion EU purse to finance refugee projects inside Turkey over the next few years.

Acrimonious atmosphere

But the past few weeks has seen an increasingly acrimonious atmosphere as both sides refuse to budge on the visa issue.

Police last week arrested 11 opposition MPs from the liberal, pro-Kurdish HDP. The arrests triggered rebukes from German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. Turkey, in turn, accused EU states of supporting terrorists.

Austria's defence minister Hans Peter Doskozi earlier this week warned that cracks in the deal were now so obvious that the EU should be thinking of contingency plans for its eventual collapse.

Nato member Turkey in October extended its state of emergency that allows Erdogan to rule by decree without any oversight from the Constitutional Court.

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights received a sudden surge of 850 petitions from Turkish nationals in the past two weeks.

Such moves are posing broader questions on Turkey's stated aspirations to join the European Union. Turkey kicked off negotiations to join the EU in 2005 but its prospects appear increasingly dim.

Hahn said the crackdown, the backsliding on rights and Erdogan's threat to reintroduce the death penalty all tested both Turkey's credibility and that of the EU.

The Turkish government maintains the purge is needed to weed out what it views as a deep state structure aligned with Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in the US and whom Turkey says instigated the July putsch.

The July coup killed 241 people and wounded over 2,000. The country was also hit by several deadly terrorist attacks from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the militant group Islamic State.

Opinion

Reasons not to end EU-Turkey talks

Stopping EU talks with Turkey would undermine democratic forces in Ankara, kill the Cyprus deal, and make the Middle East even more unstable.

EU court: Denmark's family-reunification law 'unjustified'

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has delivered a blow to Denmark's strict family-reunification laws. The ruling will likely cause headaches for its new left-leaning government given its stance on immigration, and opens up 8,000 pending cases.

EU dismisses UN call to stop migrant returns to Libya

As the death toll of the Tajoura detention centre airstrike reached 53, including six children, the UN called for a halt to returning people to Libya. The EU - which is helping fund the Libyan coastguard - said no.

Libya: EU first sends migrants back, then deplores deaths

Some 40 died following an attack at a Libyan prison, where people hoping to reach Europe are locked up. The EU commission wants an investigation but remains silent on how it trains Libyans to return rescued migrants to the country.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us