December 16, 2014

Media detentions spark crisis in beleaguered EU ties

Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, expressed surprise after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Brussels for remarks critical of recent media detentions.

Mogherini said she was very surprised by Erdoğan's reaction, which came soon after constructive talks with the government during her recent visit to Turkey.

Mogherini stressed that it is in the Turkish interest to be consistent with its commitments to the values of democracy and the rule of law.

Erdoğan said the EU should keep its wisdom to itself. “We are not concerned with what the EU might say or whether we can join the EU. Please keep your wisdom to yourself,” Erdoğan said on Monday.

“The EU should not [think it has the right] to intervene in the actions of the police and judiciary against entities that jeopardize our national security. It should mind its own business,” Erdoğan said.

EU puts more pressure on Turkey over media detentions

The European Parliament (EP) has announced that on Wednesday it will debate freedom of expression in Turkey and a recent media crackdown, according to a statement by Mogherini.

It also said it will vote on a resolution on the freedom of expression in Turkey in January.

EP President Martin Schulz opened the December session with a reminder that the freedom of the press and media pluralism are fundamental EU values. “We take our negotiations with Turkey as a candidate country very seriously and must therefore point to problems as well as to progress,” he said.

Schulz said he was shocked at a raid that took place on Sunday against the opposition media, characterizing it as a worrying sign. He asked Turkish authorities for an explanation and said he would be following any developments very closely.

The EP's Friends of Turkey group has said arrests of journalists and the silencing of political dissent call for reforms in line with the rule of law.

"We call on the Turkish government to enforce legislation guaranteeing press freedom and freedom of expression and to reinvigorate its rule of law reform efforts,” the group said in a written statement on Tuesday.

The group also urged the EU to enhance its engagement with Turkey on rule of law issues.

“The opening of chapters 23 (on Judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (on Justice, freedom and security) is of paramount importance to ensure compliance in the spirit of EU standards. We need to reinvigorate the accession process to bring Turkey closer to the EU and not push it further away," the group added.

'Turkey cannot accept EU calls for release of journalists'

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said that Turkey cannot accept the calls from Europe for the immediate release of the journalists.

“I have not had contact with the EU yet. We are seeing the statements [they made on the detentions]. There is an ongoing judicial process in Turkey. There are journalists among the detained people. We do not want the imprisonment of journalists, [but] you both defend the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, and then you ask the executive power to release the journalists immediately. We are against this,” Çavuşoğlu said

Turkey's Ministry for EU Affairs also said in a statement on Monday that EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır spoke with Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement, by phone to briefly inform him on the developments regarding the ongoing investigation.

“Minister Bozkır mentioned that the judicial process is still ongoing, that the executive is not involved in this process in accordance with the principle of the separation of powers, that Turkey is a country that observes the rule of law and that everyone should respect the independence and impartiality of the judiciary,” the statement said.

Bozkır claimed that the “detained persons were not investigated because of their written or oral expressions and that the freedom of press in Turkey cannot be harmed.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2014, Tuesday