Friday

23rd Feb 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

News in Brief

  1. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar
  2. Juncker 'worried' by Italian elections
  3. EU migration to UK at lowest since 2012
  4. MEP Andrieu will chair parliament pesticide committee
  5. Juncker's right-hand man warns of 'institutional blockage'
  6. Greek parliament to open probe on PMs and EU commissioner
  7. May gathers Brexit ministers to hammer out UK position
  8. Tajani asks Juncker for all EMA Brexit relocation documents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  2. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  3. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?
  4. Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court
  5. Dutch MPs vote on ending 'Ukraine-type' referendums
  6. Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress
  7. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  8. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission