EU reaction mixed as Turkey lifts state of emergency

EU reaction mixed as Turkey lifts state of emergency

EU reaction mixed as Turkey lifts state of emergency

The European Union welcomed Turkey’s lifting of the two-year state of emergency on July 19, but voiced fears it could be offset by other restrictive legislative measures.

In a statement, the EU reminded President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government that “concrete and lasting improvements” on the rule of law were essential for closer ties between Brussels and Ankara, which is in talks to join the bloc.

“The end of the state of emergency in place in Turkey since the coup attempt of 2016 is a welcome step,” said the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm.

“We believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination,” it added.

Erdoğan declared the emergency on July 20, 2016, five days after warplanes bombed Ankara and bloody clashes broke out in Istanbul in a doomed putsch bid that claimed 249 lives.

The measure, which normally lasts three months but was extended seven times, ended at 1 a.m. on July 19 after the government decided not to ask for an eighth extension, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The state of emergency saw the detention of nearly 80,000 people and about double that number sacked from jobs in public institutions. Over 200 media organizations, foundations and schools allegedly linked to terror networks were also shut down in this period in which the Turkish Lira struggled to keep its value against the United States dollar and the euro, falling to record lows.

The biggest purge of Turkey’s modern history has targeted alleged supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based preacher blamed for the coup, as well as those who are allegedly supporters or members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is also recognized as a terror network by the EU.

The EU statement urged Ankara to respect the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, Agence France-Presse reported.

With the lifting of the state of emergency, it urged Ankara to reverse “all measures that continue to undermine the rule of law, independence of the courts and basic democratic freedoms.”
“Concrete and lasting improvements in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms remain essential to the prospects of EU-Turkey relations,” it said.

As a result of the mass purge, the EU has frozen opening new “chapters” in Turkey’s EU membership process.

Negotiations began in 2005 and so far, Turkey has opened just 16 out of 33 chapters.