Dec 4, 2020 - World

EU to discuss sanctioning Turkish officials over human rights concerns

Picture of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

European Union leaders will discuss next week whether to blacklist Turkish officials or impose other sanctions over human rights concerns, a spokesperson for the European Commission told EU Observer.

Why it matters: Tensions between Turkey and the EU have reached new heights this year over President Erdoğan's crackdown on dissidents and journalists, disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey's intervention in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and more.

The state of play: The discussion over sanctioning Turkish officials has been prompted primarily by the way in which the Turkish government has handled the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in 2016.

  • Last week, a Turkish court jailed 337 people for life in a single day. Defendants were given life sentences for alleged murder, violating the constitutional order and attempting to assassinate Erdoğan, according to AFP.
  • An EU spokeswoman told the EU Observer that 19,583 military officers have been dismissed and around 6,000 officers have been arrested for alleged ties to the coup.
  • More than 2,800 people have been jailed for life, with judges convicting nearly 4,500 suspects since July 2016, per AFP.
  • Since the post-coup crackdown, Turkish asylum applications have increased from very few to between 1,500 and 2,500 each month.

The big picture: The European Commission — the executive branch of the EU — released a report in October in which they found that human and fundamental rights in Turkey are deteriorating.

  • The Commission said the enforcement of rights is affected by the "limited independence of public institutions responsible for protecting human rights and freedoms."
  • The EU also presented concerns over a "lack of objective, merit-based, uniform and pre-established criteria for recruiting and promoting judges and prosecutors," arguing that Turkey's judicial system lacks any sort of independence.

Between the lines: Turkey has been negotiating full membership into the EU since 2005, but negotiations have stalled since 2016 amid the country's democratic backsliding, according to Euronews. Relations between Turkey and other European countries have continued to worsen.

  • Erdogan said on Friday he hoped France would soon get rid of President Emmanuel Macron, calling him a "burden," Reuters reports.
  • The two leaders have sparred over France's response to recent Islamic terrorism attacks.

Go deeper: Past friction between Biden and Erdoğan foreshadows future tensions

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