EU cuts financial aid to Turkey, Ankara tries to downplay it

European Union (EU) has decided to cut financial aid to Turkey by 105 million Euros for its provisional budget for 2018 over its deterioration of the human rights, democracy and rule of law since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Another 70 million euros will be blocked for now and will only be released if Ankara makes progress on rule of law.

The European Parliament and the Member States have agreed on EU’s budget for the year 2018. The provisional budget shows that the financial aid for Turkey will be reduced by EUR 105 million. In addition to the cuts, another 70 million euros of Turkish aid will be blocked for the time being. According to a report by the AFP, the money will not be released until the EU finds improvements in the rule of law.

In October, leader of the EU member stated had decided to cut financial aid to Turkey and the EU parliament and the EU Commission followed the decision. The provisional budget will be voted in EU Parliament on November 30.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led calls for a cut to the funds, which are linked to Turkey’s stalled bid to join the bloc, following wide-scale arrests in the country since the failed July 2016 coup.

In a statement, EU lawmakers said “they consider the deteriorating situation in relation to democracy, rule of law and human rights worrying.”

“We have sent a clear message that the money that the EU provides cannot come without strings attached,” said Romanian MEP Siegfried Muresan, the lead rapporteur for the budget, as quoted by AFP

Meanwhile, the Turkish government has sought to downplay EU funding cuts for Turkey over doubts about Ankara’s commitment to democracy and human rights. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, who is responsible for the economic affairs, said the 105 million-euro cut is “nothing” economically for Turkey, which uses 178 billion euros in external financing on an annual basis.

“What would any EU country do differently if it faced such a big terror threat and vicious coup attempt from Turkey?” Şimşek tweeted on Nov. 18 following the EU announcement.

Şimşek has also said on Sunday that some circles have been trying to economically provoke Turkey, claiming that the recent loss of value of the Turkish lira was part of the provocation, pro-government TGRT reported.

“They [some circles] have been provoking Turkey economically. Some of them have been trying to play games with the Turkish economy in recent months by means of baseless reports,” Şimşek said during a program in Gaziantep province.

“The recent movement in the markets and loss in value of the Turkish lira are to a great extent linked with the reports and provocations,” added Şimşek, referring to speculation on Turkey’s European Union membership and possible sanctions against Turkey in this context.

Turkey wants to become an EU member since 2005. The aid is designed to help candidate countries adapt to EU standards. Brussels had pledged 4,45 billion euros in pre-accession spending for Turkey from 2014 to 2020, but only 360 million euros has been allocated so far. Apart from 3,3 billion euros of financial aid EU countries gave 6,6 billion euros to Turkey for the refuge agreement in the past 3 years.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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