Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

EU publishes delayed report on Turkey's sins

  • Men fishing on Istanbul bridge to European mainland (Photo: Remon Rijper)

The EU criticised Turkey for deteriorating media freedoms, backsliding on the independence of the judiciary, and urged the resumption of peace talks with Kurdish rebels in its annual report on enlargement progress on Tuesday (10 November).

In the much-awaited report on the accession process the EU Commission commended president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government for making progress toward EU membership in some areas, but expressed serious concerns over the rule of law and human rights.

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“Significant shortcomings affected the judiciary as well as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” the report stated.

It concluded the independence of the judiciary has been undermined since 2014 and that “judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure.”

“Reforms in these key areas are an indispensable priority in Turkey's accession process – in Turkey's own interest,” EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn told lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The publication of the report was delayed because of concerns that EU criticism of Ankara’s record would complicate negotiations on how Turkey could help Europe stem the flow of migrants into the continent.

The Commission waited for after the 1 November elections in Turkey to release the report.

Amid the refugee crisis, which has seen the EU scrabbling for solutions to stop or at least slow down the influx of people fleeing war and persecution from mostly Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, Europe has looked for Turkey to help secure its external borders.

Erdogan skillfully exploited Europe’s dependence on him in the recent parliamentary election campaign.

The EU report praised Turkey on its efforts to help over 2 million refugees in the country.

Nevertheless, it also said “serious concerns” remain over restrictions to freedom of assembly.

The report also warned that recently adopted legislation in the area of the rule of law and freedom of expression ran against European standards.

It highlighted that changes to the internet law which allow the blocking of media content “are a significant step back from European standards”.

Ongoing and new criminal cases against journalists, writers or social media users, intimidation of journalists and media outlets cause “considerable concern,, the EU report stated.

On the other hand, progress has been made too.

The report lauded economic steps that could lead to the opening of membership negotiations over economic and monetary policy, but no specifics on the next moves are mentioned.

Peace talks ‘imperative’

The EU urges Turkey to resume negotiations with Kurdish rebels for finding a lasting solution.

“It is imperative that the peace talks resume,” the report states.

It also adds that the escalation of violence recently in the country’s east and south east gave rise to serious concerns over human rights violations.

It warns that “anti-terror measures taken in this context need to be proportionate.”

The EU and Turkey have been in membership talks since 2005 but little progress has been made in recent years.

Turkey has demanded to speed up negotiations as part of the deal with the EU on slowing down the flow of people into Europe.

Hahn and EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans are due to fly to Turkey on Tuesday for another round of negotiations on the deal to tackle the refugee crisis.

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