EU to deepen trade with Turkey but ready for sanctions: European Commission, EEAS report

A report prepared by the European Commission and the EU External Action Service (EEAS) for a European Council meeting on March 25-26 revealed that the EU should start negotiations on deeper trade ties with Turkey but be ready to impose economic sanctions if Ankara moves against the bloc’s interests, according to Reuters.

The report said Turkey deserved more financial support for hosting millions of Syrian refugees as well as visa-free travel to the EU, more high-profile diplomatic contacts and an expanded customs union.

But such progress would only be possible if Turkey respected human rights and showed greater flexibility over the divided island of Cyprus and hydrocarbon rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Major backsliding on reforms continues in the key areas of Turkey’s EU accession process, and the trend has further “accelerated following the entry into force of a new presidential system in 2018,” the report said.

Speaking to journalists after a Foreign Affairs Council meeting, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stressed yesterday that the EU foreign ministers agreed to “continue encouraging positive development” with Turkey and to “keep all options [sanctions] on the table.”

On Monday German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had also warned Turkey over its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a treaty designed to counter violence against women, and a top Turkish public prosecutor’s lawsuit demanding a ban on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), saying the EU sanctions against Turkey remain on the table.

“There is de-escalation in the eastern Mediterranean, [but] the decision on the HDP or the pullout of the Istanbul Convention are certainly the wrong signals,” Maas said after meeting with his EU counterparts in preparation for the European Council meeting, Reuters reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued an executive decree early on Saturday annulling Turkey’s ratification of the Council of Europe (CoE) convention, the latest victory for conservatives in Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their allies, who argued the CoE accord damaged family unity.

Last week Bekir Şahin, chief public prosecutor at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals, asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the HDP, citing the party’s alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its failure to condemn terrorism.

“We will therefore keep the prepared sanctions on the table, and we reserve the right to impose them should Turkey steer away from the constructive course which it has taken lately with regard to specific topics with the EU,” Maas stated.

 

The Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, widely known as Istanbul Convention, was signed by 45 countries and the European Union in 2011 and requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Turkey was the first member state to ratify the CoE convention, which was opened for signature in Istanbul during the Turkey’s chairmanship of the organization 10 years ago.

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