FT: EU sidelines critical Turkey report as it seeks migration deal


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media during a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. Erdogan said Tuesday his country has intelligence suggesting that militants “originating” from Syria were planning to carry out attacks in Turkey but said no terrorist group is being ruled out in the investigation into the weekend’s deadly blasts at a peace rally.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)©AP

Brussels has privately signalled that it will shunt publication of a highly critical report on Turkey’s free speech record until after its election in November, as the EU scrambles to keep Ankara on-board with a plan to stem migration.

The move has been hotly debated for weeks because a delay appears to favour the party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, whose authoritarian tendencies were a deep concern for the EU until the migration crisis blew up.

With the active support of Germany, the commission has since sought to overcome longstanding political obstacles in EU-Turkey ties — including on human rights — and bring the migrant exodus to Europe under control.

While a Turkey-EU “action plan” is in principle agreed, Ankara’s co-operation comes at a price: a €3bn funding package to help it cope with 2m Syrian refugees, tangible progress on stalled EU membership talks, and visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens.

The deal’s fragility was underlined when on Friday morning Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, warned EU officials that a summit of EU leaders had not met its side of the bargain, according to people familiar with the talks.

The provisional accord was salvaged during a conversation with Frans Timmermans, the commission vice-president, who promised to start unfreezing some chapters of EU membership negotiations and tangible advances on financing.

According to one diplomat, Ankara was also reassured that the contentious “progress report” on its membership bid — which contains critical sections on free speech and has already been delayed by a week — had yet not begun the commission’s internal approval process and would take time.

It effectively means it will emerge after the November 1 parliamentary election, as publication is politically unrealistic in the week before the November vote.

One EU ambassador quipped that it had been delayed “at the whim of the Sultan” — Mr Erdogan. “This is not healthy,” he said.

Although the chances of its emerging next week are negligible, Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, has yet to take a final decision. A commission spokesperson said Mr Juncker would judge when the moment was best to “get the full media and public attention that these reports merit”.

Delayed publication was one of Ankara’s demands in the migration negotiations.

Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, last month pushed EU officials to defer publication.

A visit to Turkey by Angela Merkel tomorrow will highlight Europe’s desire to engage Mr Erdogan on migration, even amid a fraught election campaign that has seen increasing intimidation of media.

Ms Merkel asked that her visit be to Istanbul rather than Ankara, in part to avoid an awkward photo op with Mr Erdogan at his 1,100-room presidential palace. It is yet to be decided whether the two leaders will hold a joint press conference.

She has been more forthcoming on policy. Ms Merkel has backed a multi-billion-euro refugee aid package to Turkey. She has softened Berlin’s objections to Turkey’s inclusion on a “safe list” of countries, which means Turkish asylum seekers are be more easily rejected in Europe, even as violence has flared up with Kurdish separatists in Turkey’s south east.

The chancellor’s visit at such a sensitive political moment underlines her view of Turkey’s crucial role in tackling the migration crisis. Ankara will seek reassurance from her that the EU has the political will to deliver money, revived membership talks and visa rights to Turkey — and that Berlin will step up bilateral support if Europe proves to be divided.

“Turkey is not a country that you just remember in a crisis,” Mr Sinirlioglu said on Friday.

“It won’t be enough to give us worthless sums of money like in the past. It will have to be an amount that shows the EU’s hand is under the rock [so it is feels the weight of responsibility]”.

Full story here.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar 39 yıllık gazeteci. Mesleğe İsveç Radyosu'nda muhabir olarak başladı, oradan TV ve yazılı basına geçti. Sırasıyla Cumhuriyet İsveç muhabirliği, BBC Türkçe Servisi'nde yapımcı-sunuculuk, Yeni Yüzyıl'da dış haberler servis şefliği, Milliyet'te editörlük yaptı. 1999 yılı başında Milliyet Okur Temsilcisi olarak, medyada kurumsal bir 'özdenetim' yapısı olan ombudsmanlığı Türkiye'ye tanıtan ve ilk uygulayan kişi oldu. Bu görevi Milliyet ardından Sabah'ta da sürdürdü. Toplam 15 yıl süren bu görevi nedeniyle dünyanın en kıdemli ve 'uzman' ombudsmanlarından biri sayılıyor. Baydar, merkezi ABD'de bulunan Dünya Medya Ombudsmanları Örgütü'nde (ONO) başkanlık ve yürütme kurulu üyeliğini de üstlendi. Türkiye'ye döndüğü 1990'lı yılların ortasından bu yana çeşitli TV kanallarında başta Soru-Cevap olmak üzere çok sayıda analiz-tartışma programını hazırlayıp sunmuş olan Baydar, düzenli olarak Süddeutsche Zeitung ve The Arab Weekly için yorumlar yazmakta. Baydar, Ocak 2014'te bir grup meslektaşı ile beraber medya bağımsızlığı ve özgürlüğü alanında çalışmalar yürütmek üzere Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu'nun (P24) kurucu üyeleri arasında yer aldı. 2000 yılında 'Okur Temsilcisi' olarak yaptığı çalışmalar nedeniyle Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği'nin (ÇGD) Özel Ödülü'ne layık bulunan Baydar, 2014 yılında da, Avrupa'nın 'Pulitzer'i sayılan Avrupa Basın Ödülü'nü (EPP) 'meslekte mükemmeliyet' tanımlamasıyla aldı. 2004'te Michigan Üniversitesi'nde Knight-Wallace Araştırma Bursu ile 'Ortadoğu, demokrasi ve medya' konulu mesleki çalışmalar yapan Baydar, 2014 sonbaharında da Harvard Üniversitesi'ne bağlı Kennedy School'da 'Shorenstein Fellow' olarak Türkiye medyasında sansürün ve mali yozlaşmanın yayılmasını ele alan uzun bir rapor yayınladı. Baydar ayrıca Guardian, El Pais, New York Times gibi gazetelere de aralıklı olarak yorum ve analiz makaleleri yazıyor.
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