Turkey backsliding on democracy, warns European Parliament

April 14, 2016 2:38 pm

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (C) speaks during a debate over the refugee deal between the EU and at the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France, on April 13, 2016. (AFP photo)

The European Parliament has accused the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “backsliding” on democracy and the rule of law. 
A resolution approved by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said the European Union “is deeply concerned” that Ankara has been violating criteria needed to join the 28-nation bloc.
The resolution was passed with 375 votes in favor and 177 votes against.
The latest resolution comes amid growing worries among some European and Western countries over President Erdogan’s tightened grip on power.
The EU member states have faced accusations of selling out their principles by offering to speed up Ankara’s EU membership process in exchange for help on the refugee crisis.
On March 18, an agreement was clinched in Brussels between Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the EU to curb the huge flow of asylum seekers and refugees heading to Europe. 
Under the agreement, Turkey has accepted a series of measures aimed at curbing the inflow of refugees from the country to Greece in return for some benefits, including billions of dollars in aid, visa-free travel for Turks to Europe and, more significant than all, acceleration in the EU’s processing of Turkey’s long-awaited bid for membership in the continental body.
Critics say Ankara is using the EU refugee crisis as a platform not only to get money but also to make a fresh push on talks over Turkey’s membership in the EU and visa-free travel for Turks to Europe’s Schengen states.
However, the EU lawmakers have also said that they would hold Turkey to EU press freedom and other standards in the accession talks.
“The EU should not be trading away values for an uncertain outcome,” Marietje Schaake, a Dutch MEP said, adding, “While we must work with Turkey to ensure refugees are properly sheltered, we must do so on its own merits, and not mix it with accession.”
The vote comes days after President Erdogan lashed out at Europe for giving Turkey “lessons in democracy”.
On April 7, Turkey also warned that it would stop implementing a historic deal with the EU on curbing the flow of refugees to Europe if the Union fails to fulfill its promises.
“There are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement,” Erdogan said in a speech.
He added that everything that has been promised in the March 18 deal between Ankara and the EU must be put into action by the European side.
Many rights groups from across the globe have been calling on Western countries to press Turkey on the issue of human rights.
There have been reports of many people prosecuted in Turkey for insulting top authorities. 
Activists say Erdogan has filed hundreds of court cases against critics, including many journalists, for insulting him since he took office in August 2014.

Turkish people protest against media restrictions during a protest outside the Kanalturk and Bugun TV building in the city of Istanbul, October 28, 2015. ©Reuters

In November last year, the EU blasted Turkey for failing to respect human rights and media freedom, calling on Ankara to urgently address the flaws.
In its annual report on Turkish prospects for EU membership, the bloc said under President Erdogan there has been “serious backsliding” on freedom of speech and assembly.
“The report emphasizes an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights,” said a summary of the report released last November by the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
On March 7 , EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini  criticized Turkey for its crackdown on the press, urging Ankara to respect democracy and freedom of expression.
Turkey rejects European Parliament report
Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir rejected the Thursday European Parliament progress report.
Bozkir told reporters at a conference in Austria that Ankara will consider this report as “null and void” due to the reference to the mass killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire forces.
“Unfortunately this year… the same reference takes place in the European Parliament’s Turkey report. These expressions, despite all our efforts and our warnings, could not be dropped,” the minister said, adding, “That’s why we will consider this report as null and void and our permanent representative will send it back to the European Parliament.”
President Erdogan has frequently blasted the EU, the US and other countries that have recognized the massacre of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.
Turkey insists that it shares the pain of Armenians over the event but has intensely rejected the use of the term genocide, contending that hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians were killed on both sides in a wartime tragedy.
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