— EUobserver (@euobs) 20 juni 2017
What does the European Union do, when confronted with the rise of a freshly groomed Turkish dictator who throws his political opponents in jail, abolishes free press, promotes political Islam, and is damaging his economy? Does the EU oppose him like they ‘bravely’ oppose Trump for example? Of course not. They pump billions (not millions, billions!) into their economy, meant for Turkey to improve its rule of law, its fundamental human rights, and its democracy.
Turkey has received almost €1 billion from the EU meant for the rule of law and democracy, and that’s not the whole picture; between 2007 and this year, Turkey was allocated roughly €4.8 billion, which is more than 40 percent of the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance fund’s (IPA) allocations. Of that, €2.68 billion was committed and €2.19 billion paid out. A further €1.65 billion has been allocated since 2014 but has not yet been paid out. Because the country is somehow still a candidate-member, it seems quite possible they will receive even more money in the future.
The EU’s behaviour is somewhat baffling. Erdogan has jailed over 50.000 people for their ‘ties’ to Fethullah Gülen. Gülen is seen by Erdogan as the organiser of the failed coup in July last year. Furthermore, about 138.000 people have been fired and almost 2.100 schools have been shut down.
Amongst the detained are 234 journalists, 4.400 judges and 8.270 academics.
Meanwhile, Erdogan himself activated his constitutional amendments package last year, also known as the ‘power bill’. It was drafted by Erdogan’s AK party and extended Erdogan’s term in office until at least 2029. Also, it changed Turkey, which has a parliamentary system, into a presidential system. This means that the president holds executive power, instead of the Prime Minister and the government.
The President can also be a member of a political party and has more power to appoint Supreme Court members. Finally, the President has the authority to publish decrees (which used to be within the authority of the cabinet). Erdogan is formally still a President, but with the above combined, he pretty much can be seen as a dictator.
Not all members of the European Parliament are in favour of the EU’s current Turkey policy. For example, Belgian leader of the liberal political group, Guy Verhofstadt, told MEPs in Strasbourg last week that Erdogan’s hunger for power is now without limits. “He can do what he wants. We don’t take any action towards Turkey, not even suspending accession talks,” he said. The EU Commission says the plan is to keep pouring money into in Turkey despite “the prevailing circumstances”. It also noted the legally binding obligations that underpin the funds.
It seems Erdogan’s 2 million refugees give him exactly the amount of power he needs over the EU. What a deal…