Stick to democratic values to join EU: Juncker tells Turkey
Frankfurt am Main, Germany - European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the European Union, after a year of purges following a coup bid.
Juncker’s comments came a day after Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan gave a hardline speech to parliament on the anniversary of the attempted coup, following mass rallies in Ankara and Istanbul.
‘Whoever wants to join the European Union is joining a union of values,’ Juncker wrote in an op-ed for German weekly Bild Sonntag.
‘Europe’s hand remains outstretched,’ he added, but it expects that ‘Turkey too should clearly show its European colours and emphatically take basic European values to heart.’
In his speech, Erdogan vowed to sign any bill lawmakers pass on reintroducing the death penalty - seen as a red line that would shut down Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU.
“We will chop off the heads of those traitors,” he told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Istanbul.
The European Commission is in charge of accession negotiations for prospective new members, with Turkey’s dossier largely frozen since last July’s violence.
In his article, Juncker warned in particular against the detention without trial of journalists including Deniz Yucel of German daily Die Welt.
This was ‘in no way compatible with a union of human rights, press freedom and the rule of law’, he wrote.
Following last year’s coup bid, Erdogan embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey’s history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking almost three times as many. He also shored up his position by winning a referendum on enhancing his powers earlier this year.
Turkey on Saturday marked one year since the defeat of the failed coup bid with mass nationwide rallies seeking to showcase national unity and a stern warn- ing by Erdogan to traitors.
The authorities declared July 15 an annual national holiday of ‘democracy and unity’, billing the foiling of the putsch as a historic victory of Turkish democracy.
In an intense programme aiming to hammer home the anniversary’s importance, Erdogan attended a special session of parliament in Ankara, spoke to a mass rally in Istanbul and then flew back to the capital for a rally outside parliament and a special event at the presidential palace in the early hours of the morning.
Speaking to hundreds of thousands by the bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul that was a fighting flashpoint, Erdogan warned Turkey could reintroduce capital punishment.
Any move to restore capital punishment - which Turkey abolished in 2004 - would effectively end Ankara’s European Union membership ambitions.
Erdogan also said the suspects being tried over the failed coup should wear uniform clothing like the notorious orange jumpsuits used at US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
“When they appear in court, let’s make them appear in uniform suits like in Guantanamo,” Erdogan said to cheers.
Supporters chanted ‘we are soldiers of Tayyip (Erdogan)’, with some even brandishing nooses in a symbol of their support for the death penalty.
In the later speech to thousands outside parliament in Ankara which was bombed by warplanes that night, Erdogan declaimed ‘our nation showed the whole world what a nation we are on July 15’.
The crowds later made their way to the palace where dozens had camped outside for the final official event during which Erdogan inaugurated a monument to the victims which has people hold up the crescent and star symbols of the Turkish flag.
People attend the opening ceremony of the ‘July 15 Martyrs’ Monument’ at the Presidential Complex to mark the foiled coup’s first anniversary in the Turkish capital Ankara, on Sunday