News / Europe

    Turkey's Erdogan, on Brussels Visit, Criticized Over Crackdown

    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference in Brussels Jan. 21, 2014.
    Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference in Brussels Jan. 21, 2014.
    Reuters
    Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, making his first visit to Brussels in five years, faced sharp criticism from European Union leaders on Tuesday over a crackdown on the judiciary and police that has rattled investors.

    Erdogan has purged hundreds of police and moved to impose tighter control on the courts in response to a corruption inquiry that has rocked his center-right AK Party, which has Islamist roots and has been in power for more than a decade.

    The crackdown has soured ties with the EU just at a time when Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the 28-nation bloc had appeared to be regaining some momentum. Even as Erdogan met officials in Brussels, his government launched another wave of dismissals of judges and prosecutors.

    EU leaders said they had told Erdogan of their concerns.

    “It is important not to backtrack on achievements and to ensure that the judiciary is able to function without discrimination or preference,” European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters.

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told  Erdogan at a joint news conference that respect for rule of law and independence of the judiciary were basic principles of democracy and essential conditions for EU membership.

    “Whatever the problems are, we believe that the solution for those problems should respect the principles of rule of law and separation of powers,” Barroso said.

    Erdogan, a feisty leader who often responds forcefully to criticism, scolded EU leaders for raising the dispute in public, but generally struck a subdued note, perhaps mindful of the jitters in financial markets about Turkey's political woes.

    The lira currency hit a new record low against the dollar on Tuesday after the central bank left interest rates unchanged.

    “Instead of communicating this (criticism) through the media, we should handle this in our bilateral talks through our relevant ministers,” Erdogan said at the news conference.

    Erdogan has cast the huge graft inquiry, which has led to the resignation of three ministers and detention of businessmen close to the government, as an attempt by a U.S.-based cleric with influence in the police and judiciary to unseat him.

    Alarm

    An AK Party draft bill, which would give government greater control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, has raised particular alarm in Brussels, though Erdogan signaled on Tuesday it was being revised to accommodate EU concerns.

    Turkey's decades-old drive to join the EU gained traction late last year when Ankara and Brussels opened talks on a new policy area of the membership negotiations. But the EU concerns about the crackdown risk halting that momentum.

    A panel headed by the justice minister said in a statement on its website late on Tuesday that the government had removed 96 more judges and prosecutors from their posts on Tuesday.

    They included a judge who heard the “Sledgehammer case” in which top retired military officers were convicted for leading an alleged plot to overthrow Erdogan's government a decade ago.

    Despite his criticism of the crackdown, Barroso said he believed Turkey would swiftly address the EU's concerns.

    Erdogan, who remains popular in Turkey where he has presided over a decade of strong economic growth, said judges operated within a democracy and this meant limits on their power.

    “If we consider the judiciary as a separate power, then this would lead to a country of judicial rule and not democracy,” he told the news conference.

    Erdogan said the EU membership talks were on the right track for now, though he repeated a threat he has made before that Turkey might “end up turning in other directions” if the negotiations did not achieve results. He did not elaborate.

    Ankara began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France, have slowed progress.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora