EU ministers agree harder line on Turkey over clampdown on media

Zaman media group employees hold banners outside the headquarters of Zaman daily newspaper in Istanbul December 14, 2014. (Reuters)

EU ministers agreed to take a harder line on Turkey’s bid for membership Tuesday, saying its recent police raids on media outlets were incompatible with the bloc’s democratic values.

European affairs ministers reaffirmed that Turkey was a “key partner,” especially given its pivotal role in the Middle East and the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants in Syria and Iraq.

But they said that “recent police raids and the detention of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey call into question the respect for freedom of the media, which is a core principle of democracy,” in a statement released after a meeting in Brussels.

Diplomatic sources said the statement, drafted before Sunday’s crackdown, had been altered to reflect widespread anger at the raids and also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s blunt response to the EU’s criticism of them.

The ministers strengthened the language in one section, saying the EU “urges” Turkey to work on reforms.

They added: “Progress in accession negotiations depends on respecting the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

The EU strongly criticised the raids, which came just days after foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited Turkey in what was billed as a bid to reset relations.

Mogherini and Hahn condemned the raids as “incompatible with the freedom of media.”

Erdogan reacted furiously, saying the 28-member bloc should “mind their own business.”

Turkey has made only very limited progress in its accession talks with the EU since they opened in 2005.

A festering dispute with EU member Cyprus -- where Turkey backs the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus set up after its 1974 invasion -- and opposition from some members to allowing in such a large Muslim country have slowed the process.

Brussels, Dec 16, 2014 (AFP) -


 

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