Mixed EU reaction to Turkey's lifting of emergency

People shouting slogans as they carry a flag on a street near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge during clashes with military forces in Istanbul, on July 15, 2016.
People shouting slogans as they carry a flag on a street near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge during clashes with military forces in Istanbul, on July 15, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The European Union welcomed Turkey lifting on Thursday (July 19) a two-year state of emergency, but voiced fears it will be offset by other restrictive legislative measures.

The EU also reminded President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government that "concrete and lasting improvements" on the rule of law were essential for closer ties between Brussels and Ankara, which is in talks to join the bloc.

"The end of the state of emergency in place in Turkey since the coup attempt of 2016 is a welcome step," said the EU's diplomatic arm, the external action service.

But it added: "We believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination."

Mr Erdogan declared the emergency on July 20, 2016, five days after warplanes bombed Ankara and bloody clashes broke out in Istanbul in a doomed putsch bid that claimed 249 lives.

The measure, which normally lasts three months but was extended seven times, ended at 1am on Thursday, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, after the government decided not to ask for an eighth extension.

The state of emergency saw the detention of some 80,000 people and about double that number sacked from jobs in public institutions.

 
 
 

The biggest purge of Turkey's modern history has targeted not just alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed for the coup, but also Kurdish activists and leftists.

The EU statement urged Ankara to respect the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

With the lifting of the state of emergency, it urged Ankara to reverse all measures that continue to undermine the rule of law, independence of the courts and basic democratic freedoms.

"Concrete and lasting improvements in the area of rule of law and fundamental freedoms remain essential to the prospects of EU-Turkey relations," it said.

As a result of the crackdown, the EU has frozen opening new "chapters" in Turkey's EU membership process.

Negotiations began in 2005 and so far Turkey has opened just 16 out of 33 chapters.