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News Analysis: Turkey at risk in accession talks with EU

English.news.cn   2014-03-15 01:05:41

ANKARA, March 14 (Xinhua) -- The European Parliament's critical report about Turkey this week spells growing danger that Turkey's accession talks with the European Union (EU) may risk suspension if major grievances of Brussels were not addressed properly, analysts said.

"I think Ankara is skating dangerously close to a complete halt of accession talks over the Turkish government's highly controversial moves recently," Mesut Cevikalp, foreign policy expert based in the Turkish capital of Ankara, told Xinhua.

"The European Union wants to engage with Turkey further, but the European Parliament's reports show Turkey is making it very difficult for them to do so," he added.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule has echoed similar sentiment in a parliament discussion on the report, saying that Turkey is losing support among EU members.

He urged the Turkish government to change course in order to " avoid the headwinds that have started to blow."

The European Parliament's General Assembly in Strasbourg approved Turkey's 2013 progress report with 475 against 153 votes on Wednesday. The progress report consisted of 80 pages, 33 chapters and four main topics.

The report expressed deep concern about recent developments regarding allegations of high-level corruption, while urging the Turkish government to show full commitment to democratic principles and to refrain from interference in the investigation and prosecution of people involved in corruption.

The criticism was not surprising, said Mumtazer Turkone, professor of political science and regular contributor in mass daily Zaman.

"Although the situation in Turkey is quite clear, it is difficult to see how many serious objections could be made," Mumtazer said.

He stressed that the EP report just identified the situation, officially documenting the problems regarding freedom of the press, the independence of the justice system, and the supremacy of the rule of law and corruption.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has reshuffled thousands of public officials mostly in police and judiciary since Dec. 17, 2013. Recent corruption scandal was made public in order to hush-up investigation that implicated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his family members and businessmen close to him.

The government also rushed bills from the parliament to exert more control over judiciary and Internet in order to stall investigation and prevent damaging evidence from being leaked to Internet.

Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the EP's rapporteur on Turkey that drafted report, said Turkey has started a wave of reforms for the benefit of its citizens, but that recent developments in Turkey have been raising concerns among EU countries.

"Freedom of speech and judicial independence are main concerns for the European Union. Turkey needs to show its dedication to the core values of Europe," she said.

The report also referred to the Gezi Park anti-government protests last summer, saying that it deeply regrets the loss of life among protesters and police, the excessive use of police force and the violent acts of marginal groups. The EU commissioner Fule mentioned the death of a boy named Berkin Elvan, who was in a coma for 269 days after being shot in the head with a tear gas canister during protests.

"The question which needs to be answered is this: Should Europe be a role model for Turkey? Turkey needs to answer this question. I believe that Turkish people want a more democratic nation and I hear their calls," said Fule.

Beril Dedeoglu, professor of international relations at Galatasaray University, said the EP was not that wrong in its criticism of Turkey in light of what has been happening in the country.

She underlined that what is important for Turkey is not to be a member to the EU right away but to prevent suspension of membership talks.

"Turkey whose accession talks were put in jeopardy would be considered as a country that was demoted to a lower club. Even a possibility of such scenario will negatively impact global rating of Turkey," Dedeoglu warned.

Turkey may be heading towards stormy days in the European Union already. The Liberals who have long been a champion of Turkey's accession to the EU, dropped their support to Turkey.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, vice chairman of the Liberals in the EP, has publicly declared that accession talks should be suspended until the Turkish government returns to the direction of the EU.

This is the first time the Liberals, who have consistently backed Turkey's aspirations for membership, have become increasingly critical of the direction taken by Turkey, particularly in the wake of the corruption scandal of Dec. 17 and by the way Erdogan's government has handled it so far.

However, European Union Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu fired back at the report, saying that it ignores positive developments in Turkey, and has called on the European Union to change its vision of the country.

He deemed the criticism to be "unfair" and said the report is " deficient" because it does not take into account reforms introduced by the government last year.

"Some developments in Turkey were not accurately described and we don't understand why some of the developments were not in the report," he noted.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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