Turkey should prioritize democratic agenda during Romania’s EU presidency
HURRIYET JANUARY 12 SERKAN DEMIRTAS
The first half of the year will observe Romania’s term presidency and the next half Finland’s. Although the role of the term presidents in shaping EU policies has seriously diminished in the last decade, they still can have an influence over key issues. Despite existing problems with the EU over the democracy deficit, Turkey hopes that Romania’s term presidency will inject a new spirit in ties with the EU, particularly on its three main demands from Brussels -visa liberalization, customs union, and the revitalization of the full membership process. In an interview with private broadcaster NTV on January 10, Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoglu expressed optimism over Turkey-EU ties during the Romanian term presidency, although fairly underlining that he doesn’t expect Bucharest being able to change the entire picture alone. Having communication channels open and continued engagement on issues like migration and counter-terrorism mark a positive process in Ankara-Brussels ties, but they should surely be accompanied with a chain of democratic reforms for a comprehensive recovery of Turkey’s ailing state of human rights and democracy. However, at this point, one can hardly argue that the mentality has changed in Turkey among government officials when it comes to responding to problems stemming from a lack of democratic norms and human rights breaches. A very fresh example of how freedom of expression is seen by senior government figures was given by Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım, ironically, at a meeting he hosted for journalists on the occasion of the Working Journalists’
Day on January 10. He defended a court’s verdict of the 13-month imprisonment of journalist Pelin Ünker for reporting about his son’s offshore maritime companies in Malta as part of the global Paradise Papers leak.