European Parliament withholds Turkey’s pre-accession funding

LAURENT DUBRULE

A general view for the plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 27 April 2016.

European Parliament withholds Turkey’s pre-accession funding


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Amid efforts by Ankara to normalise relations with the EU, the European Parliament voted on Tuesday to withhold €70 million in pre-accession funding.

The vote was chamber 544 and 28 against the motion. Turkey is officially a candidate for accession state since 2005, although political momentum has declined in recent years.

The funds had been set in reserve in November 2017.

The motion to withhold the funds had the support of both the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Social Democrats (S&D). Criticism focused on the deterioration of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Turkey.

Political Context

Turkey has been trying to improve relations with Europe, following a historically low point after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in an official visit in Berlin last week, by invitation of President Frank Walter Steinmeier. In a clear sign of deteriorating relations, Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attend the official reception in President’s Erdogan honour, hosted by President Steinmeier.

On Wednesday, October 2, the Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok is visiting Turkey, telling Anadolu Agency that bilateral relations “have been restored.”

Addressing the Turkish parliament last week, President Erdogan promised that Ankara would be leaving this period of tension behind.

Relations between Turkey and several EU member states plunged ahead of the April 2017 presidential referendum, when the Netherlands, Austria and Germany objected to referendum campaigning in their country. At the time, President Erdogan compared Chancellor Merkel to Nazi leadership.

A further soar point has been the arrest of Dutch and German journalists in Turkey. Overall, approximately 100 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey.

Over the last few weeks, several German citizens have been released.

Ankara continues to press a number of EU member states, including Germany and the Netherlands, to list the Hizmet movement of the Philadelphia-based cleric Fethullah Gulen Gulen as a terrorist organisation.

Economic Context

Turkey finds itself amid its worst financial crisis in a generation.

Since January the Turkish Lira has lost 40% of its value and inflation has surged to double digits.

In the meantime, Turkey faces economic sanctions from Washington, in retaliation for the imprisonment and, later on, the house arrest of pastor Andrew Brunson. Brunson is due to appear to an Izmir court on October 12.

The conflict is escalating as US prosecutors are accusing the state-owned lender Halkbank of money laundering linked to Iranian assets.

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