MEPs call on Turkey to lift state of emergency, stop civil society crackdown

Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) greets its leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (not pictured) during a meeting marking 83th anniversary of the enfranchisement for woman in Turkey, in Ankara, Turkey, 5 December 2017. [Tumay Berkin/EPA/EFE]

The European parliament yesterday (8 February) called on Turkey to scrap the emergency powers which members said were being used to stifle “legitimate and peaceful opposition” and a free press.

At their monthly plenary in Strasbourg the MEPs denounced, in a resolution, the hundreds of arrests by the Turkish government, which they said were being carried out “in an attempt to censor criticism over its military assault” in the Syrian town of Afrin.

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Turkey’s European affairs ministers told the EU yesterday (25 January) to side with Ankara in its campaign against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

Deputies criticised the “deterioration of freedoms and fundamental rights and the rule of law in Turkey”.

According to the parliament, the state of emergency, put in place following a failed coup in 2016, is “being used to further stifle legitimate and peaceful opposition”.

Since then, more than 160 media outlets have closed and Turkey’s civil society faces a massive crackdown, the MEPs agreed, by a show of hands.

EU funds destined for Turkey should be conditional on Ankara improving its record on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, they added.

Germany says EU aid to Turkey could be halted over arrests

Germany raised the possibility on Wednesday (19 July) of suspending European Union aid payments to Turkey after summoning Ankara’s ambassador to Berlin to protest over the arrest of six human rights activists including a German citizen.

Turkey began a major operation aimed at ousting fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from their enclave in the northwestern Syrian town of Afrin on 20 January.

International concern grows over Turkey’s military incursion in Syria

Turkey yesterday (22 January) intensified its offensive against Kurdish militia targets in Syria as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed there would be no stepping back in a campaign that has stoked concern among Ankara’s allies and neighbours.

At least 68 civilians have been killed in the offensive according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Turkey has strongly rejected any civilian casualties, saying that its military is showing utmost care not to harm any civilians in the Afrin region.

The Turkish foreign ministry described the EU parliamentary resolution as “nothing but a patchwork of ungrounded claims compiled… just for the sake of criticism”.

The emergency measures are still needed “to fully eliminate the threats against the existence of our state and our nation’s right to democratic life,” the ministry insisted.

On Tuesday EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini also denounced the continuation of Turkey’s emergency measures and Ankara’s military action in Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to meet top European Union officials next month in the Bulgarian city of Varna, officials said Tuesday, in a bid to repair strained ties.

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EU diplomats expect Turkey to press the issue of visa liberalisation during the upcoming summit in Varna on 26 March. It is still unclear if this is a real priority for Ankara or just negotiating tactics as part of a bigger picture.

Relations between the EU and Turkey have taken a nosedive since the July 2016 failed coup. Turkey’s EU membership talks that officially began in 2005 have stalled, to the chagrin of Erdoğan who previously described the wait as “exhausting”.

Turkey and EU shadow-box over illusive accession process

Turkey’s accession process is neither formally suspended nor canceled but the European Commission is not working on opening new negotiation chapters, an EU official told EURACTIV.com following Ankara’s fresh all-or-nothing request for full membership.

In a statement, Turkey’s foreign ministry said that the European Parliament’s resolution is ‘far from understanding the current conditions Turkey faces’.

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