Europe warns Turkey of “serious backsliding on fundamental freedoms”

Joining the European Union isn't easy, and the EU Parliament warned Turkey that it still has a long way to go.

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MEPs slammed Turkey on human rights progress in a report on Thursday, 14th of May. The resolution, passed by 375 votes, criticised Turkey’s compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria, the set of rules that govern entry into the European Union.

The report harshly criticised Turkey for “backsliding on respect for democracy and rule of law” and worried the situation had gotten worse “in certain key areas, such as the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and respect for human rights.” Turkey is moving away from the Copenhagen criteria, which would mean more work to join the EU.

Turkish authorities have also been accused of meddling in elections, with the report highlighting the intimidation and harassment of the media.

Turkey admitted that it holds the highest numbers of journalists in prison, and in recent years the country has shut down several publications and broadcasters.

The report recommended “European diplomats … to continue to monitor closely all criminal cases against journalists; … deplores the personal attacks by leading government officials against journalists and opponents, and the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the Turkish leadership.”

Emphasised was the decision by the government to shut down some Digiturk broadcasts that were allegedly critical of the government.

Read more: MEPs scold Poland over constitutional crisis

Corruption has also increased in Turkey, citing a damning report from by Transparency International which ranked the country at 66.

The report comes after the EU-Turkey refugee deal, which saw a return of migrants to Turkey from Greece in March. Previously, Brussels had been criticised for overlooking freedom violations in order to speed up the deal process.

Turkey in the EU is still on the horizon

Turkey has sought to join the European Union for decades. The country first applied to join what was then the European Economic Community in 1987.

But there have been constant concerns over human rights and press freedom in the country, which have only increased under the Erdoğan government. Some say that the current Turkish political climate is incompatiable with European Union values.

“The rule of law, press freedom and freedom of expression are core values of the European family,” said German Liberal lawmaker Alexander Lambsdorff.

In addition, the report raised concerns over Turkey’s management of the environment. Turkey experienced a rapid boom in the 2000s, and its effects of urbanisation and population growth were examined with “particular concern about the various megaprojects in the count