On December 17, Marietje Schaake spoke in the plenary about the developments in Turkey (see below). In October she called for a new agenda for EU-Turkey relations and recently wrote a blog responding to Mr Erdogan's troubling comments about women. Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group – Mr President, our dream of a European Turkey has turned into a nightmare and it is time for a wake-up call. I was among those critical friends of Turkey who argued that an ongoing membership process helps reforms, but reality suggests the opposite. Last weekend’s arrest of journalists is part of a trend of government-led breaches of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey.
Only a week after a high-level EU delegation visited Ankara, relations have now hit another low point. There was reason for concern before. After corruption allegations included Erdoğan – then Prime Minister, now President – and key members of his Cabinet, hundreds of police officers and prosecutors were relocated and threatened with prosecution. Those threats have now materialised and are also being used on journalists, while Turkey already held the world record for imprisoned journalists.
The obvious question is why the EU would act firmly only now. It comes down to our fears of Turkey sliding ever further away from democracy if the negotiations were to stop. Yet too many watershed moments have passed without serious criticism from Europe, from the banning of an unpublished book by Ahmet Şik to mass arrests and trials without due process. The witch-hunt of Gülen supporters is only the latest in a long list of rule of law violations. Members of the Fethullah Gülen Hizmet Movement and the AKP have created monsters together by helping each other in a coalition that long turned against everything on their combined path. Now they are turning against each other, leading to even more violations of the rule of law.
Today there are masses of people in Turkey who live in fear for their future – women, academics, artists, business leaders and, frankly, anyone who is critical of the government. Losing a job or a licence, receiving a tax fine or even being prosecuted for attempting to overthrow the government have become common tools to punish opponents, while laws were passed placing members of the security establishment and government officials above those laws. It is time to tell the AKP government that it is not business as usual. Europe has to show that there is an end to the violations of the rule of law.