EU calls on Turkey to ‘safeguard democracy,’ increasing criticism

EU calls on Turkey to ‘safeguard democracy,’ increasing criticism

BRUSSELS - Reuters
EU calls on Turkey to ‘safeguard democracy,’ increasing criticism

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The EU issued a strong new call on the Turkish government on Nov. 8 to resume political dialogue with opposition groups and safeguard its democracy, describing recent developments as “extremely worrying.”

The statement issued a day before an annual EU assessment of Turkey’s progress on meeting the criteria for EU accession, noted the discussions in Ankara on reintroducing the death penalty following the failed military coup of July 15, a crackdown on the media and the arrests last week of opposition lawmakers. 

“The EU and its member states ... call on Turkey to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including the respect for human rights, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the right of everyone to a fair trial, also in conformity with its commitments as a candidate country [for EU membership],” the statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini read. 

“In this regard, the EU and its member states will continue to follow and assess the situation very closely and they stand ready to continue political dialogue with Turkey at all levels, within the established framework,” it added. 

Turkey should continue to recognize the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as a terrorist group but the arrest of lawmakers from a legal Kurdish party was “polarizing” society, the statement said. 

“A return to a credible political process and to a genuine political dialogue is essential for the country’s democracy and stability in the region,” it added. 

The EU is engaged in a delicate stage of its relationship with its large Muslim neighbour, which acts as a buffer between Europe and an unstable Middle East. Since an agreement in March, Turkey has helped end an influx of refugees and migrants to the EU via Greece after a million people arrived last year. 

In return, the EU providing aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey has pledged to revive Ankara’s membership talks and promised to ease visas for Turkish citizens visiting Europe. 

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn this week condemned the treatment of officials jailed or sacked since July, and said it was a reminiscent of Nazi Germany and suggested Brussels could respond on time with sanctions on Turkey.
However, EU diplomats see little prospect of such a confrontation soon. The German government, which has a strong interest in maintaining the agreement on refugees and migrants, does not support the idea.
Visa liberalisation, on the table for years, is now held up by disputes over whether Turkey has met a set of requirements that include modifying anti-terrorism laws. The security crackdown after the coup attempt has added to EU reluctance.
With major elections looming over the next year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where anti-immigration parties are doing well and oppose easing visas for Turks, diplomats say that Brussels is in no hurry to push Turkey into meeting the requirements to complete the deal -- especially since the flow of migrants remains at limited, manageable levels. 

However, there is concern in Brussels that hardline tactics in Ankara could generate reactions that destabilise the country.

Mogherini’s statement ‘has no value’: Foreign Ministry

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Mogherini’s statement “has no value” for Turkey, because the EU “has lost its “persuasiveness and reputation” for the Turkish people due to its policies on terror.

In a written statement on Nov. 8, the ministry described Mogherini’s statement as “unacceptable.”

The EU has “not given the expected support” to Turkey since the coup attempt and “adopted a prejudiced attitude,” the statement said, adding that Brussels “insists of not understanding Turkey’s sensitivities.” 

“The EU should understand that it cannot back away by merely condemning terror attacks,” read the statement. 
Brussels has lost its “reputation and persuasiveness in the eyes of the Turkish nation,” the ministry said, making reference to activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in member states.