Human Rights, Turkey and the EU
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 19th March, 2009
This evening I was one of the speakers at a big meeting at the LSE, focussing on aspects of the European media’s coverage of Turkey’s progress (or otherwise) towards EU membership. Quentin Peel of the Financial Times was in the Chair at the event, which was organised by the British-Turkish Business Network, BizNET. The other panelists were William Horsley, former European affairs correspondent of the BBC, Ayca Abakan Duffrene of the BBC World Service’s Turkish Service and Ruth Mandel from University College London (UCL). I concentrated on the human rights angle to the subject, pointing out how the EU’s Copenhagen criteria for prospective members puts serious obligations on their governments to make progress in the field of democracy and human rights. To his credit, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has made quite a number of positive reforms since he came to power, though dismayingly these seem to have slowed rather. Moreover, last year there was actually a marked increase in the number of prosecutions against writers and journalists who fall foul of the country’s notorious Article 301, which makes criticising Turkey, Turkish identity or Turkish institutions a crime. Many of these prosecutions are maliciously brought by ultra-nationlist lawyers and others with an axe to grind — not a few of whom would be delighted if Turkey’s road to EU membership were blocked.