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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid