A European perspective on Turkey's possible justice reforms

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s was in Brussels on Tuesday on first visit in five years.

Although his visit was planned months ago, Erdogan is under fire over recent plans to reform the justice system – giving the justice minister more power. The EU says the justice system should remain independent if Turkey does not want to jeopardise its EU candidate member status.

Erdogan’s government is embroiled in a corruption scandal and many see the proposed reforms as an an attempt to stifle opposition.

euronews spoke to Marc Pierini of Carnegie Europe.

euronews: “Marc Pierini, you were the EU’s ambassador to Turkey for five years. The Turkish government is dealing with a very serious crisis. Rocked by corruption scandals, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made changes to the police, the judiciary, the civil service, even the television media. Seen from Europe, it is a drift towards authoritarianism. But can Europe influence the course of events in Turkey?”

Marc Pierini, Carnegie Europe: “When you reassign 2,000 police, even more prosecutors, change laws and regulations, monitor the finances and internet activities of the police – these things are all defence mechanisms. I would say it is almost an admission of guilt .

“Unfortunately, the measures taken represent a decline of the rule of law. Justice and rights are issues here in Brussels and in other European capitals.

“The only thing the EU can do is engage firmly with Turkey in the accession negotiations. There needs to be political incentive for the reforms but they won’t be simple or easy. The EU must insist on these reforms if Turkey wants to join.”

euronews: “There are still many countries that don’t accept the idea of Turkey as an EU member. Negotiations have stalled over the past eight years. There’s nothing to stop them using their veto at the end of the process.”

Pierini: “Of course. Any member state may hold a referendum on Turkey’s accession and even a single dissenting voice can derail all the work that’s already been done. Those are the rules of the game, rules accepted by Turkey. What Turkey doesn’t like is for opinions to be changed every six months.

“But I think, from the European point of view, the problem isn’t membership . Europeans see it as a problem of democracy in Turkey. Today the population of Turkey is 75 million, it will be 85 million in 10 years’ time. A stable and democratic Turkey is in everyone’s interest, while a country that has crises every six months is not.”

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