EU concessions may encourage Ankara to further quash freedoms

Turkey has not opened Chapter 23 regarding the judiciary and fundamental rights or Chapter 24 on justice, freedom and security. Diplomatic sources point out that Turkey could have pressured the EU into forcing the Greek Cypriot administration to withdraw its block on certain chapters, but the outcome of the summit shows that no such measure was taken.

Schaake: Political cocktail created could be explosive

According to Marietje Schaake, the vice chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the US, “The unprecedented horse-trading of entirely separate topics — the sheltering of refugees, visa liberalization and Turkey’s EU accession — has created a political cocktail that could prove explosive.”

“While the deal reached at the summit was supposed to revive EU-Turkey relations, it was in fact stillborn,” she wrote. “The agreement seems to have served domestic political purposes on both sides, but in reality these political benefits are wearing off, and the hard results remain to be seen.”

Professor: EU contributing factor to authoritarianization of Turkey

In a recent article Gokhan Bacık, a professor of international relations at İpek University, pointed out two factors increasing the authoritarian tendencies of a government. “The first,” he wrote, “are ‘direct actors,’ whose policies have brought Turkey to an authoritarian state,” referring to the AK Party and Erdocan.

The second contributing factor to authoritarian rule according to Bacık is the “indirect actors,” i.e., those who do nothing despite their possession of the power of leverage that can stop the authoritarianization of a country. He was referring to the EU.

Many fear that the showering of Turkey’s political Islamist administration with favors by the EU will only serve to encourage them to push more fervently on their path to a more authoritarian regime.

Erdocan, already Turkey’s strongman, wants to cement his grip on power even further by forming a “Turkish-style” presidential system without checks and balances. In August he argued that Turkey’s government has already been changed into a de-facto presidential system, calling for a constitutional framework to “finalize” the transition.

Also Erdocan and the AK Party have ordered the reassignment or dismissal of more than 40,000 police officers, civil servants, judges and prosecutors after two far-reaching graft probes implementing Cabinet ministers and even members of Erdocan’s family were revealed in December 2013.

The charges ranged from engaging in acts of corruption and bribery to transferring gold to Iran in order to undermine a US-led sanction.

On another note, there are currently 30 journalists in prison on charges stemming from the articles they penned for their respective newspapers. The latest victims of Erdocan’s recurrent blows to media freedoms are Editor-in-Chief of the Cumhuriyet daily Can Dundar and the paper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gul.

The pair was arrested on charges of membership in a terror organization and espionage upon a complaint lodged personally by Erdocan for reporting on trucks belonging to Turkish intelligence that were allegedly carrying weapons to radical groups in Syria.

Erdocan had said on live television that he “believed” the individual who undertook the exclusive story would “pay a heavy price.”

“I won’t leave it at that,” he said in a televised interview with state broadcaster TRT late in June.

Also in November, a regime-controlled court ordered the appointment of trustees to the management of Kaynak Holding, which consists of 23 companies, including the country’s largest publishing house. Little was heard from the EU.

Likewise, 13 TV and radio channels, including Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, S Haber and Radio Cihan, that are critical of the AK Party were taken off the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Turksat).

However, in a desperate push to overcome the humanitarian fallout of the Syrian civil war which has claimed over 250,000 lives and displaced millions over five years, the EU has seemingly reneged on its primary principles of rule of law, freedom of speech and press freedoms.

Long gone are the harsh criticisms we used to see from the EU against the AK Party’s aggressions, such as when German Chancellor Angela Merkel postponed the opening of the 22nd accession chapter, citing grave human rights violations in the Gezi Park protests of 2013, although the initiation of the chapter had been decided long before.

Instead, it was the German chancellor who provided Erdocan and the AK Party with much appreciated support with her mid-campaign visit to Turkey before the Nov. 1 election.

Also the convenient delay of the EU’s Turkey progress report, in which the EU voiced harsh criticisms towards the AK Party, was well received by Ankara.

Mirko Tobias Schäfer, an assistant professor at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, tweeted to Piri, “terrible hypocrisy to fund a repressive regime w. [with] poor human rights record to solve our obligations to human rights.”