- Critics accuse Brussels of ‘cynical silence’ over president’s clampdown
- Court-ordered takeover of Zaman newspaper has sparked global outrage
- EU chiefs want Turkey to do more to curtail flow of migrants into Europe
- In return EU has pledged £2.3billion as well as easing of visa restrictions
The European Union was last night under fire for failing to condemn a crackdown on free speech in Turkey which saw the state-enforced takeover of the country’s largest newspaper.
Critics accused Brussels of a ‘cynical silence’ over hard-line president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s clampdown, claiming EU leaders were reluctant to anger Ankara ahead of a crunch summit on the migration crisis.
The court-ordered takeover of Zaman sparked international outrage and was described as one of the ‘darkest days’ in the history of the country’s Press – but EU chiefs largely remained silent.
Demonstrating: Zaman had been sharply critical of the president before the court ordered the seizure
Today they will desperately try to convince Turkey to do more to curtail the flow of migrants travelling to Europe.
In return for Ankara taking action to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees leaving its western border for Greece, the EU has pledged £2.3billion as well as the easing of visa restrictions on its citizens travelling to Europe.
It has also promised to speed up controversial moves to admit Turkey to full EU membership.
In an underwhelming statement, the EU’s diplomatic service said: ‘The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as [an EU] candidate country, needs to respect and promote high democratic standards and practices, including freedom of the media.’
But neither European Council president Donald Tusk nor European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker intervened to condemn Turkey’s actions.
Only Martin Schulz, European Parliament president, condemned the move on Twitter as ‘yet another blow to Press freedom in Turkey’ and said he intended to raise the issue today.
Former shadow home secretary Mr Davis said: ‘Giving visa-free access to people carrying Turkish papers will, if anything, make worse the security threat identified by Europol.’
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned the EU on the eve of the Brussels summit not to ‘yield to blackmail regarding migrants’.
‘There can be no question of resuming EU accession talks while Ankara visibly tramples on basic European values,’ said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
‘Until now, the EU has demonstrated culpable weakness in response to president Erdogan’s attacks on the media. Is the EU determined to let itself be humiliated?’
Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of the US-based rights watchdog Freedom House said: ‘The European Union … should not trade Turkey’s support on migration and Syria for silence over the dismantling of democratic institutions.’
The top-selling daily newspaper had been sharply critical of President Erdogan before the court ordered the seizure on Friday.
But prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that the court order was a legal decision, not a political one, and denied any government involvement in the move.
‘DOWNRIGHT DANGEROUS’ TO LET TURKEY JOIN EUROPEAN UNION
Letting Turkey join the European Union would be ‘downright dangerous’ because it would increase the threat from jihadists, it was claimed yesterday.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage and senior Tory David Davis, two leading members of the pro-Brexit Go Movement, spoke out ahead of the Brussels meeting.
Mr Farage said the move would ‘not just [be] stupid, but downright dangerous given the current flow of Islamic State terrorists in the region’.