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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

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - World

The global line for coronavirus vaccines stretches back to 2023

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There’s a wild scramble at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU discussing export bans and legal action to ensure its supply speeds up in the coming months.

The flipside: The back of the line likely stretches to 2023 and beyond. Almost no low-income countries have managed to begin distribution in earnest, and total vaccinations in all of continental sub-Saharan Africa currently number in the dozens.

Obama says Powell exemplified what America "can and should be"

Then-President Obama speaks alongside former Secretary of State Colin Powell (left) during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2010. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama called Colin Powell an "exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot" in a statement honoring the former general following his death from COVID complications on Monday.

Why it matters: Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was known as a Republican but played a critical role in helping Obama get elected in 2008.

Justice Department asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block Texas' near-total ban on abortions while federal courts consider its constitutionality.

The big picture: The court last month allowed the ban to take effect, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The law bars the procedure after cardiac activity is detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy.