EU-Turkey relations have come to ‘historical low point,’ EP says in draft report

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The European Parliament (EP) said in a draft report on Turkey prepared by its Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) that the country’s continuous and growing distancing from European values and standards in the last several years has brought its relations with the European Union to a “historical low point.”

Citing the European Commission’s reports on Turkey since 2014 with special emphasis on the 2019 and 2020 reports, the EP said, “Turkey has increasingly and rapidly distanced itself from the EU’s values and its normative framework.”

The EP said Turkey’s relations with the EU “have deteriorated to such an extent that it requires both parties to profoundly reassess the current framework of relations.”

The parliament also insisted on the formal suspension of accession negotiations with Turkey, so that both sides can realistically review the appropriateness of the current framework and its ability to function, or, if necessary, explore possible new models for future relations.

The report underlines that the lack of progress in Turkey’s convergence with the EU has now been transformed into a full withdrawal, mainly due to backsliding on the rule of law and fundamental rights in the county.  

“This regression has increasingly been accompanied by an explicit anti-EU narrative,” the EP added, calling on Turkey to reassess the sincerity of its commitment to the EU path.

The EP also said the serious backsliding on fundamental freedoms in Turkey along with the continued erosion of democracy and the rule of law, remain “the main obstacle to progress on any positive agenda that could be offered” to the country.

It is also stated that Turkey’s two-year-long state of emergency, which was lifted in 2018, has become a “deliberate, relentless and systematic state policy” that extends to many critical activities including Kurdish activism and even the Gezi protests of 2013.

The draft report also includes criticism of Turkey’s current overly broad anti-terrorism provisions and the “abuse” of the anti-terror measures, which “have become the backbone of the state policy.”

Since an attempted coup that claimed the lives of 251 civilians on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government has arrested or detained more than 80,000 people and prosecuted over 511,000 on coup-related charges that include terrorism.

More than 130,000 civil servants were also removed from their jobs as part of a massive post-coup crackdown led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The parliament also emphasized that it considers the erosion of the rule of law and the systemic lack of independence of the judiciary to be one of Turkey’s most pressing and worrying issues, adding that it condemns the political pressure affecting the work of judges, prosecutors, lawyers and bar associations.

The EP further expressed concern about the disregard by the Turkish judiciary of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings and the increasing non-compliance of lower courts with the judgments of Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM).

Turkey’s local courts previously refused to acknowledge the AYM and ECtHR’s rulings in favor of prominent figures such as former opposition lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu, rights activist Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş, the former leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The parliament once again called on Turkey to release all imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and others who have been detained on unsubstantiated charges and to enable them to carry out their work without threat or impediment in all circumstances.

The EP in closing said it’s “alarmed by the consolidation of an authoritarian interpretation of the presidential system in Turkey and deeply concerned about the continued hyper-centralization of power in the Presidency, which does not ensure a sound and effective separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches and the judiciary.”

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