Turkey Is Accused by EU Parliament of Democratic `Backsliding'

  • EU assembly also praises Ankara for cooperation on refugees
  • Resolution reflects mixed state of EU-Turkey relations

The European Parliament lashed out at Turkey for further eroding civil liberties and heaped praise on the country for stemming the flow of Mideast refugees in a snapshot of the chilly-yet-close state of Europe’s ties with Ankara.

In a resolution, the European Union assembly accused Ankara of “serious backsliding” on fundamental freedoms and stressed the importance of cooperating with the Turkish government to curb Europe’s biggest refugee wave since World War II. The 28-nation Parliament approved the non-binding resolution, which is an annual exercise, on Thursday in Strasbourg, France.

The EU is going through a can’t-live-with-it-can’t-live-without-it phase of relations with Turkey, whose bid for membership of the bloc has barely advanced since negotiations got under way in 2005.

The recent jailing of Turkish journalists and seizure of newspapers such as the best-selling Zaman have added to doubts across the EU about Turkey’s fitness for accession; the Parliament cited “the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Turkish leadership.” At the same time, the country’s role as the main transit route for Syrian and other migrants entering the EU by sea in Greece has left European governments dependent on Ankara’s help in preventing the smuggling of refugees from the Turkish coast.

One unusual point in the Parliament’s resolution captures the distant promise of warmer EU-Turkey ties: praise for a recent initiative by Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to make Turkish an official language of the bloc. The Cypriot move is aimed at bolstering talks on the reunification of Cyprus, an EU member divided between Greek- and Turkish-speaking areas since a 1974 invasion and occupation of the northern part of the Mediterranean island by Turkey.

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