Strong warning to Turkey from EU summit

Strong warning to Turkey from EU summit

I came across this sentence while reading Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s message issued on the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “In a globalizing world, securing fundamental rights and freedoms are now beyond the internal affairs of states but have crossed national borders to become the joint target of the entire world.”

The prime minister, with these words, has stated that now, in our times, it should be regarded a correct and legitimate stance for countries to take up each other’s issues on fundamental rights and freedoms.

After being reminded of this basic principle, we can proceed to evaluate the section about Turkey in the resolution text of EU presidents and prime ministers participating in the EU summit in Brussels on Dec. 13. This text was accepted by EU foreign ministers Dec. 11.

In this document, which is expected to be approved by the leaders of the 27 countries participating in the summit, it is indeed pleasing that it emphasizes that “it is in the interest of both parties that accession negotiations regain momentum soon.” These sentences demonstrate that within the political wing of the EU the will to break the deadlock in the accession talks is strengthening.

Similarly, highlighting that “Turkey’s dynamic economy provides a contribution to the prosperity of the whole European continent” and recognizing Turkey’s role in Syria are two other positive sides of the resolution.

However, when it comes to the EU political criteria, the tone suddenly changes. I read this part of the text by comparing it with the 2010 and 2011 resolutions. There is a much more critical approach compared to the past both from the dominating tone and the versatility of the topics criticized.

This sentence, which was not present in previous years, is highly noteworthy: “The Council notes with growing concern the lack of substantial progress toward fully meeting the political criteria.”

When viewed as such, EU leaders have now recorded that they regard Turkey as a problematic candidate from the aspect of meeting political criteria.

The same sentence that was in last year’s resolution is repeated: “The restrictions in practice on the freedom of the media, including the large number of legal cases launched against writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, and frequent website bans continue to raise serious concerns that need to be addressed effectively.”

In other words, the message “there has been no change on this front” is given and an addition is made: the EU has included the “broad application of legislation on terrorism and organized crime” among “topics raising serious concerns.” We should deduce from this sentence that it mainly focuses on the practices of the Specially Authorized Courts.

Also, it is thought-provoking that the sentence: “Ensuring the independence, impartiality and efficiency of the judiciary remains of particular importance” is included in the EU summit resolution for the first time. In addition to that, it calls for all judgments of the European Court of Human Rights to be implemented. The judiciary in Turkey, in the eyes of Europe, obviously does not look adequately independent and impartial.

One positive component in this section is the satisfactory evaluation of the Turkish government in presenting the fourth judicial reform package.

As a result, the EU summit announced that Turkey is losing ground in the aspect of fundamental rights and freedoms. The text defines the joint position of each of the 27 EU countries before Turkey.

Now, you may read Prime Minister Erdoğan’s message on human rights day with this in mind.

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for the daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published Dec. 14. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.