EU raises concerns over possible re-introduction of the death penalty in Turkey

Visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens into EU’s border-free Schengen area likely to be put on hold.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

19 Jul 2016

The EU has warned Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that a re-introduction of the death penalty will bring an end to Turkish EU accession talks.

There is speculation that the death penalty will be reintroduced in the wake of the weekend coup which claimed hundreds of lives and put the country in turmoil.

Speaking on Monday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini responded bluntly to the suggestion that the death penalty – which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of its long-running efforts to join the EU – could be reinstated.


“Let me be very clear,” she said. “No country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty.”

Western leaders have pushed Turkey to follow the rule of law as the massive retaliatory purge adds to existing concerns surrounding human rights and democracy.

During a visit to Brussels on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman cited “revolting scenes of caprice and revenge against soldiers on the streets” after pictures were published of the treatment of some detained suspects.

The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe also joined the criticism, with its panel of constitutional experts saying: “Arrests and mass sackings of judges are not an acceptable way of restoring democracy.”

In Germany, the conservative CSU party's General Secretary Andreas Scheuer told national broadcaster ZDF that there could be no visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens into the EU’s border-free Schengen area.

His comments were echoed by Germany’s EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, who told the Funke Mediengruppe that he does not think visa liberalisation is on the cards for Turkey as planned this year.

Members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee discussed the motives and the possible consequences of the coup with EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn and representatives of the European External Action Service on Tuesday.

MEPs were expected to emphasise the need to protect democratic freedoms and assess the future of the EU-Turkey relations.

Meanwhile a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has criticised its failure to condemn “anti-democratic tendencies” in Turkey.

Speaking in an EESC debate on Tuesday, Swedish member Berivan Ongoror also accused President Erdoğan of an “abuse of power” in the wake of the failed military coup in the country.

Ongoror, who was born in Turkey but has lived in Sweden for several years, said it was a cause for concern that “hundreds” of judges, lawyers and journalists had been arrested in Turkey since the botched takeover.

Over 7000 people have now been detained as Erdoğan continues to purge those he believes are linked to the rebellion.

“As well as criticising the coup attempt, we have got to condemn the fact that Erdoğan is now trying to abuse the current crisis,” said Ongoror, who represents the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees in the EESC, the Brussels based body that represents civil society at EU level.

She noted that Turkey has the worst record in the world for jailing journalists and that there had been a “very serious” deterioration in the country’s human rights record in recent times.

“Of course, it is right to condemn the coup as undemocratic but we should be saying something about these other things and the shortcomings of Erdoğan as well,” she said.

Ongoror was critical of a draft EESC text which condemned the “undemocratic” attempted coup but failed to mention widely held concerns about what many see as a deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey.

The text was later amended so that it also cited some of the reservations voiced by other committee members, expressing concern about "negative elements" in Turkey.

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