Report: European Liberals and the Left may ask to halt the EU negotiations with Turkey

European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle has warned that the EU may halt negotiations with Turkey but that the EU does not want to do it because it would be a difficult process to restart once you halt the negotiations, according to a report by Selçuk Gültaşlı, Today’s Zaman.
Füle had a meeting on Tuesday with the members of the Friends of Turkey in the European Parliament (EP), and his warning about the possibility of halting Turkey’s EU negotiations came up during this meeting, Today’s Zaman has learned. Friends of Turkey is an informal group founded by members of the EP with the main interest of following the negotiation process between the EU and Turkey through a critical and constructive approach.

According to EU sources, Füle said the EU does not want to halt the negotiations with Turkey because once you freeze the process it would be very difficult to restart.

At the meeting in which eight deputies from the Friends of Turkey group and many bureaucrats attended, Füle said 2014 has not started well for Turkey and that the Dec. 17 corruption operation is a “highly complex investigation,” without elaborating much.

According to sources talking to Today’s Zaman, Füle also said what the Turkish government is doing with regards to the corruption investigation is damaging the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.

A police operation was launched on Dec. 17 in which state-run Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab and the sons of two Cabinet ministers were arrested along with 20 other suspects.

When the corruption investigation erupted, the prime minister sought to discredit the investigation by calling it a “foreign plot” and “an attempt to damage the government made by a parallel state nested within the state.”

He immediately ordered the removal of hundreds of police officers who had contributed to the probe. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) initiated an investigation into four prosecutors involved in the corruption probe, and two of the prosecutors were removed from the case.

In addition, the government issued a proposal to restructure the HSYK. If adopted, the bill will give the government a tighter grip on the judiciary, according to legal experts.

Füle tweeted on Monday he had asked the Turkish “authorities [to] consult relevant amendments to laws before adoption to make sure they’re in line with principles of EU legislation.”

Speaking to Today’s Zaman on Thursday, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks also said that adopting a government-endorsed bill to restructure the HSYK is a huge step backwards for Turkey that not only undermines the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and transfers certain powers to the executive but will also undermine public trust and confidence in the judiciary.

When speaking to the Friends of Turkey group, Füle said he talked to President Abdullah Gül and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan on the phone recently and highlighted the issues about which EU is concerned, such as police reassignments, HSYK restructuring and removing certain prosecutors from the investigations.

Liberal Democrat member of the EP for the Southwest of England Graham Watson, who was in the same meeting with Füle, also said center-right parties may ask to halt the EU negotiations with Turkey in the coming days and the center left may support it.

“Turkey will not give up pursuing EU membership,” said Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday at the plenary session of the Economic Development Foundation (İKV).

“The EU is the biggest modernization project for Turkey. In order to have success in Turkey’s EU process, we need a timetable rather than good will remarks. The process should not be open ended,” Çavuşoğlu added.

Çavuşoğlu said that the messages coming from the EU in 2013 were positive, and what Turkey wants from EU officials is to approach Turkey without any prejudice, see the positive progress and talk about the shortcomings openly.