Erdogan-Macron meeting: Turkey’s role in the European Union and the human rights situation

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, in an effort to improve Turkey’s frigid relations with the European Union, after his visit in Athens in early December.

Unsurprisingly enough, the issue of Turkey’s candidacy for the European Union was at the center of the meeting and the joint press conference that was held. President Macron highlighted that it was far from over, even though the current developments did not allow for progress in Ankara’s decades-long push to join the European Union. Nevertheless, he considered stringing Turkey along, a hypocritical move and articulated his country’s position to keep Turkey somehow attached to the European Union, not necessarily as a full member but even as an equal partner, with its foreign policy oriented towards the West.

For his part, President Erdogan clarified that they would not wait forever arguing that the accession progress was taking its toll on his people.

Another hot topic proved to be the human rights situation in Turkey, a sore thumb in the accession talks. President Erdogan’s arrival was met with protests over deteriorating press freedoms and human rights abuses, as about 30 activists from watchdog group Reporters without Borders held images of jailed journalists outside the Turkish Embassy. A dozen demonstrators, mainly ethnic Kurds, later tried to reach the presidential Elysée palace, but police pushed them back onto a side street.

Macron pointed out that press freedom is increasingly battered in some democracies, including in Europe, bringing to mind the situation in Hungary and Poland. He also noted that democratic countries must respect the rule of law in their fight against terrorism as he voiced concerns about the fate of students, teachers and journalists detained by Ankara, and provided Erdogan with a list names, who he believes to be wrongly targeted during the post-coup crackdown, as around 50.000 people have been arrested since then and 110.000 others removed from public sector jobs.

On that note, Erdogan defended his country claiming that Turkey is “before all else, a state of law” and responded that some “columnists and opinion leaders are the gardeners of terrorism”, needed to be fought, and that his country’s judicial system remains independent, but that he could provide the Minister of Justice with the list in order to make inquiries about their status.

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