EU concerned about Turkey's path to dictatorship

A state of emergency has been declared in Turkey and now parts of the European convention on human rights are suspended. Most EU states don't want conflict with Ankara but are concerned about its path to dictatorship.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz this week summoned the Turkish ambassador to his office in order to get his view of developments in Turkey. Kurz said his government had information that showed recent pro-Erdogan protests in Vienna had their origins in Turkey.

In an interview with the German magazine "Spiegel", he said that Europe could not afford to appear weak by clinging to the refugee deal with Turkey "at all costs." Should the deal fall apart, he added, the EU would have to protect its borders on its own.

Belgium, too, has summoned the Turkish ambassador after he accused a Flemish parliamentarian of being involved in last week's failed coup.

Accession talks on ice?

At the start of the week, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, made clear that a reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey would mean the end of Turkish accession talks with the EU. And Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner responsible for negotiations, also made clear that he thought plans for a purge had been made far in advance.

Hahn went on to speculate that lists containing the names of thousands of suspects must have been lying ready in desk drawers for some time, and that no administration could possibly react as quickly as the Turks suddenly did following the coup attempt. Conservative European MPs have demanded that talks not be broken off immediately, claiming they offer the only real prospect for exerting influence on Turkey. Representatives from the Left and Green factions have meanwhile called for the discontinuation of talks.

Türkei Ausnahmezustand: Folgen des Putsches

The EU has urged Turkey to hold true to democratic values

What will become of the refugee agreement?

The EU is scheduled to pay out some 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) for aid projects by the end of September as part of the refugee agreement with Turkey. The money, said the European Commission recently, will directly benefit Syrians now residing in Turkey. In all, 3 billion euros have been promised, and Brussels intends to stick to the deal. Thus far there are no indications that Turkey is not upholding its end of the agreement.

Nevertheless, it is unclear how things will now progress: German Commissioner Günther Oettinger, for instance, has said that visa-free EU travel for Turkish citizens - one of the main prerequisites of the deal - will not be granted this year. But Turkish President Erdogan has consistently made the deal contingent upon that point: No visa-free travel - no refugee agreement.

In light of the plurality of the European Parliament, such promises will likely be impossible to fulfill. Dutch Social Democratic parliamentarian Kati Piri sees the issue as an insurmountable obstacle. Portions of the Conservative block are trying to salvage the deal, but even Christian Democrats like Elmar Brok are warning of the eventual "Putinization" of Turkey. He says he hopes the upcoming meeting planned between Erdogan and Putin will not devolve into a "festival of autocrats."

Nervous neighbors

Whereas most European governments have restrained themselves and expressed concern with varying degrees of intensity, Bulgaria, a direct neighbor of Turkey, has deployed border patrols and advised its citizens against traveling to the country.

Tensions with Greece are also on the rise: For safety reasons, the eight Turkish military officers that fled to Greece after the failed coup attempt have been moved to the interior of the country until their asylum applications can be processed. Reports of Turkish navyships near the Greek island of Simi on Wednesday also caused a great deal of commotion. And a solution to the Cyprus problem, which seemed so close, now appears to be slipping away as well. Athens is generally concerned that the decades-long tensions between Greece and Turkey could once again appear, especially as regards the refugee issue.

Belgien Martin Schulz und Tayyip Erdogan

Erdogan and President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz - a picture of the past?

Democracy and Western relations fall victim

Former EU ambassador to Turkey, Marc Pierini, sees a change of course by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the cause for the current situation. For the longest time, European norms - from freedom of expression to trade policy - were the measure of all things in Turkey, says Pierini, now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But in Erdogan's view the EU is now simply a hindrance on his march toward presidential rule, thus EU membership no longer has any strategic value for him. Nonetheless, Pierini thinks that the Turkish president will continue to honor the refugee agreement as long as it remains useful to both sides.

Pierini also believes, however, that endless calls for adherence to the rule of law are pointless: First: because the coup very nearly succeeded and therefore set in motion a chain of retributive acts. Secondly: "because the failed coup offers the president a golden opportunity to expand his power." That could also mean new elections and the two-thirds majority he needs to change the constitution.

"Turkey's democracy and western affiliation may end up being the coup's first victims," Pierini said.



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