Author: Andrew Rettman and Eszter Zalan
Posted: November 15 2016
EU foreign ministers said on Monday (14 November) that the bloc should be careful not to break relations with Turkey despite concerns over human rights.
“We should not push Turkey into a corner,” said British foreign minister Boris Johnson, following a recent wave of arrests of opposition MPs and journalists in Turkey.
“We should not overreact in a way that is against our collective interests … remember, they had a very serious situation there, an attempted coup”, he said, referring to July’s failed putsch, which prompted president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s purge of alleged coup sympathisers.
Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni said Erdogan’s actions put in doubt his intention to one day join the EU.
“When you hear talk of reintroduction of the death penalty, when you see operations such as the arrest of the parliamentary opposition leader, one wonders whether these [EU entry] conditions will be met or not”, he said.
“But we will not close the door to Turkey. Italy has always been open to Turkey’s European path.”
He said EU-Turkey relations were “more difficult” than ever, referring to Erdogan’s latest idea – to hold a referendum on future EU membership.
He added that the EU-Turkey deal on stopping migrants from travelling to Greece “can be improved, but it works”.
Finnish foreign minister Timo Soini told reporters he had spoken to his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Sunday and that “the EU is not popular in Turkey at the moment”.
“Mevlut said that EU does not interest them. There are anti-EU feelings and the Turks feel betrayed and left on their own [after the failed putsch],” he said.
“When it comes to parliamentary democracy in Turkey, the situation is definitely getting worse. The Turks are shocked after the failed coup d’etat, but they should not use it as an excuse to crush the legitimate opposition.”
Soini said reintroducing the death penalty was an “absolute red line for the EU”.
He added that “the EU has many reasons to have cooperation with Turkey”, despite the crackdown.
“The agreement on migration is important for EU but also for Turkey – it would not want uncontrolled flow of migrants within its borders. There are also important economic interests between Europeans and Turkey. Then there are the geopolitical reasons; there will be no lasting solution for conflicts in Syria or Iraq without Turkey,” he said.
Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szajarto added his voice to the chorus of Erdogan apologists.
“We need rational and cool-headed response. Europe’s security starts with Turkey’s stability,” Szijjarto said.