EU progress report slams Turkey over rule of law, free speech
REUTERS photoThe European Union accused Turkey on Nov. 10 of backsliding on the rule of law, rights and the media, calling on the new government to take urgent action in a sensitive report that Brussels held back until after elections.
The scathing report on Ankara’s EU candidacy, originally due for release before the vote that returned the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power, praised Turkey for housing Syrian refugees and for cooperating on the migration crisis.
But it was severely critical of the domestic situation in Turkey, saying that there had been “serious backsliding” on freedom of expression and that the judiciary had been undermined.
“The report emphasizes an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights,” said a summary of the report’s key findings by the European Commission, the EU’s powerful executive arm.
Turkey’s commitment to joining the 28-nation bloc was “offset” by domestic actions that “ran against European standards,” it added.
“The new government formed after the repeat election on Nov. 1 will need to address these urgent priorities,” the summary said.
The report highlighted criminal cases against journalists and writers, intimidation of media outlets and changes to Internet law.
“After several years of progress on freedom of expression, serious backsliding was seen over the past two years,” it said.
It added that the “independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined since 2014 and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure.”
Turkey had meanwhile seen a “severe deterioration of its security situation.”
The harsh report had been expected to be released in October but was held back until after the elections, in which the AKP stormed back to a majority.
Its release comes just over a month after the EU announced a refugee cooperation deal with Turkey, the main launching point for migrants coming to Europe, including a possible three billion euros ($3.3 billion) in aid.
The deal included pushing forward Turkey’s long-stalled accession process and speeding up visa liberalization for Turks travelling to the EU.
Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005, but Ankara has since completed just one of the 33 “chapters” needed to join the bloc.