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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid