Taksim tension with the EU hits planned meetings

Taksim tension with the EU hits planned meetings

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Taksim tension with the EU hits planned meetings

Hannes Swoboda has urged Turkey to lower the electoral threshold to 5 percent for fairer parliamentary representation. DHA photo

Tension between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the European Parliament over the Turkish police’s crackdown on protestors is growing, with a potential spillover effect on Ankara’s membership talks with the European Union.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin canceled his trip to Brussels tomorrow, where he was set to participate in a conference on freedom of expression and media in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The delegation from the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs also had to postpone its visit scheduled for this week as it could not secure any appointments from government officials.

Meanwhile, the European Union is set to decide this week whether to delay accession talks with Turkey. Negotiations on one chapter were expected to be opened by the end of this month, but Germany is trying to convince other members to postpone the meeting in a response to Ankara’s crackdown on mass demonstrations, according to Turkish diplomatic sources. In order to avoid further confrontation with Ankara, technical difficulties could be shown as a reason for the delay.

The Turkish government has started working on what measures to take if the EU were to decide to postpone the meeting, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. One possible reaction could be the postponement of a Turkey-EU mixed parliamentary commission meeting that was supposed to take place on June 26.

The European Parliament’s strongly worded motion, which was accepted last week, against the Turkish government about the Gezi protest has infuriated Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He said he did not recognize the decision, which expressed concern at the “disproportionate and excessive use of force by Turkish police to break up peaceful and legitimate protests.” Erdoğan, who said he had started his electoral campaign for the local elections scheduled for March next year, continued criticizing European Parliament in nearly every public speech he has delivered since then.

The EU bashing has spread to other Turkish officials as Cemil Çicek, the parliamentary speaker, as well as Egemen Bağış, the EU minister, have refused to meet members of the European Parliament.

The visit by the Committee on Foreign Affairs was scheduled long before the Gezi Park protests. But the members could only get appointments from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Flautre comes to Turkey

While the visit has been canceled, Hélène Flautre, who was supposed to be in the delegation as the chair of EU-Turkey mixed parliamentary commission, decided to come to Turkey. She is expected to meet Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu.

The war of words between the European Parliament and Turkish government is about to spill over to Turkey’s institutionalized relationship with the European Union. The technical committee met June 18 to decide whether to open Chapter 22 with Turkey. Countries like Italy and Sweden are said to be against Germany’s insistence on delaying talks. If the committee fails to agree, the decision will be postponed to another meeting on June 21.

Meanwhile, Hannes Swoboda, president of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, wrote “Turkey needs to lower the electoral threshold to 5 percent to give citizens a new chance at being represented in Parliament,” on his Twitter account.

Another international figure to comment about recent events was Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights. Pillay welcomed last week’s decision by the Turkish government to put on hold further action on the Gezi Park development in Istanbul until there is a court decision, and then to submit the issue to a local referendum. However, she expressed her concern about the excessive use of force by police against protesters.

“In times of growing public outcry and large-scale protests, the government must take all necessary measures to ensure that police forces do not resort to excessive use of force and other human rights violations while discharging their duties,” the high commissioner said.