European Parliament warns Turkey over ‘backsliding’ of democracy
STRASBOURG - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoThe European Parliament sent a stern warning to EU membership candidate Turkey on April 14, accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of “backsliding” on democracy and the rule of law.
The parliament “is deeply concerned” that Ankara is violating criteria needed to join the European Union “in the light of the backsliding on respect for democracy and rule of law inside Turkey,” said a resolution approved by members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
Rapporteur for Turkey at the European Parliament, Kati Piri, said the regression in areas such as freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary was “particularly worrying,” adding that the overall pace of reforms has also slowed down.
“We also express our concern about the escalation of violence in the southeast,” Piri said, citing figures that nearly 400,000 civilians had to flee certain provinces where extensive operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are being conducted.
The MEPs also called on Turkey to end “intimidation of journalists” and condemned the “violent and illegal take-over of several newspapers,” including daily Zaman. A local court had appointed trustees to Zaman media group, which is considered to be linked to U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP accuse of heading a “terrorist organization” aiming to topple the government.
The report also called for an immediate ceasefire in the country’s southeast while calling upon the PKK to lay down its arms and “use peaceful and legal means to voice its expectations.”
Ankara rejected the report, citing references that the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır said.
“We will consider this report as null and void,” Bozkır was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu Agency, after the parliament adopted a 2015 progress report on Turkey which has long pressed for EU membership.
“There is no moment in our history that we feel ashamed of. All of our archives are open. We believe this is an issue that should be decided by historians. Politicians should not write history,” he was quoted as saying from Vienna.
Bozkır told the agency earlier on April 14, ahead of the European Parliament’s approval of the document, that Turkey would reject the report if it maintains the descriptions inside the draft which defines the 1915 massacres as genocide.
Reviving Turkey’s languishing EU membership bid was a key pledge by European leaders in return for Ankara’s help in stopping the huge flow of migrants and refugees heading to Europe, mostly from war-torn Syria.
The non-binding resolution passed with 375 votes in favor and 177 votes against.
The EU has faced accusations of selling out its principles by offering to speed up Turkey’s EU membership process in exchange for help on the migrant crisis. But EU officials vowed to continue to hold Turkey to EU press freedom and other standards in the accession talks, amid increasing worries over rising authoritarianism in the country.
“The EU should not be trading away values for an uncertain outcome,” said Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP from the ALDE liberal group.
“While we must work with Turkey to ensure refugees are properly sheltered, we must do so on its own merits and not mix the issue with the accession process,” Schaake added.