Turkey’s EU prospects appear distant, says report

November 10, 2016 12:33 am | Updated 12:33 am IST - BRUSSELS:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The European Union (EU) voiced grave concern about Turkey’s crackdown on opponents since a failed July coup in a highly critical report on Wednesday that made clear that Ankara’s prospects of joining the bloc have become ever more distant.

Turkey had rolled back the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and other fundamental democratic standards since the coup attempt, the EU said in its most hard-hitting annual report on the country’s long-running membership bid.

Widespread crackdown

“The coup attempt of July 15 was an attack on democracy per se. Given the seriousness of the situation, a swift reaction to the threat was legitimate,” the EU’s top enlargement official, Johannes Hahn, said.

“However, the large scale and collective nature of measures taken over the last months raise very serious concerns. “Turkey as a candidate country must fulfil the highest standards in the field of the rule of law and fundamental rights. In this year’s report we therefore stress Turkey’s backsliding in the area of rule of law and fundamental rights.”

The report risks further damaging the EU’s relations with a country it is relying on to restrict the flow of migrants and refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

A Turkish presidential spokesman said the EU would have to accept consequences if it decided to halt Turkey’s slow-moving accession negotiations.

“If they resort to such ways, they will have to live with the results,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said

The EU has stepped up its criticism of Ankara since its arrest of prominent Kurdish lawmakers last week, and it said it would be President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fault if Turkey failed to meet criteria for a promised removal of visa requirements for visiting Europe. In a separate interview with Reuters, Mr. Hahn said Turkey’s EU candidacy was hanging in the balance. Luxembourg and Austria, as well as some European lawmakers called on the bloc to halt membership talks with Turkey or punish it with other sanctions.

But Germany, the bloc’s top power, opposes sanctions now and Chancellor Angela Merkel was a key driving force behind a March migration deal with Ankara that cut arrivals of refugees and migrants to Europe via Greece to a trickle after a mass and uncontrolled influx last year. — Reuters

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