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Erdoğan’s increasingly repressive policy raises great concerns across the EU

Over the past three days, the press, especially in Austria, Cyprus, France and Germany, granted wide coverage to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s additional clampdown on the opposition; mostly expressing concerns over the fact that Turkey is on the way of becoming a dictatorship. Media, including Les Echos, report that another stage was reached by Turkish President last Friday, regarding his willingness to take back control of his country after last July’s failed coup.

Overnight Thursday to Friday, several leaders and MPs of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, i.e. Turkey’s second-biggest opposition party, were arrested and taken into detention under a “counter-terrorism” investigation linked to the PKK. The HDP considers that these arrests mark “the end of democracy” in the country.
On Saturday, nine leaders and journalists of “Cumhuriyet” were also taken into custody. Les Echos adds that the US is “deeply troubled” over the detention of pro-Kurdish leaders while the EU is “extremely worried about” their arrests.
HRVP Federica Mogherini “called a meeting of EU ambassadors in Ankara.” The Cypriot press, Belgium’s Radio 1 and Ethnos Thou Savvatour, for instance, also provide the opinion of HRVP Mogherini and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn, expressing the EU’s concerns over developments in Turkey. In a joint announcement, they said that they expect Ankara to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including respect for human rights and the rule of law and they are conveying these expectations directly to the Turkish authorities.
Quoted by De Standaard, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said the very hard approach of the Turkish government towards the Kurdish activists “questions the basis for a sustainable relation between Turkey and the EU.” According to Mr Schulz, Večernji list notes, Ankara did not only distance itself from democracy but also completely turned its back on the EU and Turkey’s common values.
The press also publishes the point of view of other EU leaders. A source in the German Foreign Ministry said, that while Ankara has the right to fight terrorist threats and respond to the bloody attempted coup, this should not be justification for muzzling the opposition, report Estonian media, while MEP Manfred Weber (EPP) told Yle, that the EU must suspend the membership negotiations with Turkey if the country continues with its current policies.
In other reactions to the latest events, Eyyup Doru, the representative of the HDP party in Europe, says in an interview with L’Humanité, that the party has decided to suspend its work in the Turkish Parliament. He calls on the EU to punish the “fascist regime” and “anti-democratic government” of President Erdoğan. He supports the idea floated by the EU rapporteur in Turkey of halting visa negotiations and asks the Council of Europe to truly defend human rights and therefore prevent Turkey’s accession to the EU.
In an interview granted to Der Taggespiegel, Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, says that Erdoğan’s relentless persecution of Turkish opposition members does not bode well for the future. He warns that Turkey is turning into a police state and that Mr Erdoğan will pursue the reintroduction of capital punishment regardless of what Europe thinks.
In a commentary for Handelsblatt, Gerd Höhler stresses, that Europe must ask itself if it has not waited too long to begin criticising Erdoğan’s extreme policy measures. L’Humanité’s Stéphane Aubouard harshly criticises both the EU and NATO’s “indifference and powerlessness.” He considers that they are “trapped in their own Turkish policy,” especially alluding to the Brussels-Ankara migrant agreement.
Along the same lines, Political Scientist Mevlüt Kücükyasar urges, in a Die Presse op-ed, the EU to take action and draw a line. Rather than criticise the Turkish leadership, European heads of state and government allowed themselves to be blackmailed by the refugee deal with Ankara, he further stresses.
Speaking with Kronen Zeitung, Austrian Federal Chancellor Christian Kern (SPÖ) advocated a stricter stance of Europe towards the government in Ankara. Should Turkey walk out on the refugee agreement the EU ought to stop providing funds, Mr Kern points out.
In related news, La Libre Belgique, on Sunday, and The Daily Telegraph, today, report that the Turkish President yesterday accused Europe of abetting terrorism by supporting Kurdish militants, after human rights groups and European leaders criticised the country’s crackdown against members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party. “I don’t care if they call me dictator or whatever else, it goes in one ear, out the other. What matters is what my people tell me,” Erdoğan said in response to Western criticism.
Along the same lines, Danish outlets for instance note, that Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also subsequently accused the EU of supporting the PKK, which is on both the EU’s and US’s terror list. Therefore, Mr Cavusoglu underlined that his country will not accept any advice from the EU about legal rights.
Meanwhile, Cypriot and Turkish media say that, according to FAZ, a European Commission report on Turkey’s accession progress, refers to problems regarding the freedom of press and the independence of the judicial system in the country. The report, which will reportedly be published on Wednesday, states that there is a “significant recession” in the country’s freedom of press, while the legal decisions on national security and the combating of terrorism are imposed “selectively and by chance”.
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