Following a months-long war of words between Ankara and Brussels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk at EU headquarters, on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
“We discussed the need to cooperate. I put the question of human rights in the centre of our discussions with @RT_Erdogan,” Tusk tweeted following the meeting.
Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on EU officials to signal to Erdoğan that discussion of upgraded economic cooperation is dependent on Ankara’s willingness to tackle its human rights and rule of law crisis.
“At the first meeting with President Erdoğan after he won a referendum that expands his power, the EU should put human rights firmly back into the picture,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch.
“Presidents Juncker and Tusk should convey the message that with Turkey’s EU accession stalled, deeper economic cooperation under a possible new customs union will depend on Erdoğan ending the deplorable crackdown in Turkey and taking steps to uphold human rights and the rule of law.”
Relations between Ankara and Brussels reached crisis levels during the campaign for an April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments in Turkey.
Attacking European Union countries during his nonstop “yes” campaign ahead of the referendum, Erdoğan said Europe is the center of Nazism today and will pay a heavy price for it.
Describing the EU as “the alliance of crusaders,” Erdoğan called on people to respond to the EU in the referendum on April 16.
“Did the EU open the door and Turkey did not get in? There is an EU which has driven Turkey from pillar to post at its door for 54 years. … We have honor. We will not let them play with it. … If EU representatives treat us fairly and with honor, we can continue talks. If not we can go our own way,” said Erdoğan last week in response to calls by Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) officials on the government to push for the EU membership process.
Erdoğan met with Macron
Erdoğan also had a meeting with newly elected French President Emanuel Macron at the Steigenberger Wiltcher’s Hotel.
Macron on April 17 reacted to the results of an April 16 referendum in Turkey on constitutional amendments switching the country to a presidential system of governance, writing on his Twitter account: “The referendum of yesterday marks the authoritarian drift of Turkey.”
“If I am elected President, I will do anything to help the Turkish democrats, who continue to fight,” promised Macron in a subsequent Twitter message.