EU lawmakers agree to cancel pre-accession funds for Turkey due to human rights violations

Members of the European Parliament’s Budget Committee on Tuesday agreed to cancel 70 million euros in pre-accession funds earmarked for Turkey on grounds that a previously set condition to improve the rule of law was not met as well as the widespread violation of human rights.

The committee said the money would be spent on migration programs.

“Last November, during the budgetary negotiations, Parliament and Council decided to place in reserve 70 million euros in pre-accession funds for Turkey (70 million euros in commitment appropriations and 35 million euros in payment appropriations), under the condition that Turkey makes measurable, sufficient improvements in the fields of rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom, according to the annual report of the Commission,” the committee said in a statement.

“However, the Commission’s annual report on Turkey, published on April 17, 2018, concluded that Turkey has been significantly moving away from the European Union, in particular in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights and through the weakening of effective checks and balances in the political system.”

The condition set by the budgetary authority has therefore not been met, members of the Committee on Budgets said.

They accordingly supported the draft amending the budget, in which the commission proposes transferring the 70 million euros earmarked for Turkey to reinforce the European Neighborhood Instrument through commitment appropriations — to cover actions linked to the Central Mediterranean migratory route and to fulfill part of the EU pledge for Syria — and to boost humanitarian aid by 35 million euros through payments appropriations.

The report says any decision related to pre-accession assistance provided to Turkey as a candidate country should not be made to the detriment of EU for Turkish civil society, noting that funding opportunities for civil society should instead be increased.

The draft report was adopted with 27 votes, one against and four abstentions. To take effect, the draft amending budget has to be approved by a plenary vote in parliament, scheduled for Oct. 3.

Meanwhile, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper on Wednesday that Turkey’s economic problems cannot be resolved by aid packages from the EU.

Hahn’s comments came ahead of a Friday visit to Germany by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which the Turkish government hopes may lead to European efforts to help Turkey out of its economic crisis.

The Turkish lira has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year, and some Turkish firms are struggling to repay their short-term foreign-denominated debts.

“Turkey’s economic problems are homemade,” Hahn said and added that to revive its economy, Turkey should return to sound economic policies, ensure the independence of its central bank and respect democratic principles. Western companies would resume investing in Turkey once they regain confidence in its politics, Hahn said.

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