The “counter-coup” launched by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a concern to the European Union. The more than 6,000 soldiers arrested along with more than 750 judges, police officers in handcuffs, the images of rebels lying on the ground half naked and with their hands tied behind their backs, but above all the threat that Ankara can reintroduce the death penalty, 12 years after it was abolished, are alarming news for European institutions. So alarmed that they’ve put Turkey on notice over relations that up to now, if only for convenience, had been cozy.
“In the first hours after the failed coup, we have witnessed revolting scenes of arbitrary justice and revenge,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. And in Brussels, foreign ministers gathered in the Belgian capital warned that no country with a death penalty can belong to the E.U.
For now, adds Federica Mogherini, the E.U. still considers Turkey a partner and regards what happened “with a friendly attitude,” but the issue of capital punishment is set in stone. In the future, underlines the representative for European foreign policy, “it might need a new strategic reflection” on relations between Brussels and Ankara. The statements led Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to respond measuredly that the reinstatement of the death penalty is a “request of the people, an order by the citizens,” but it would be “wrong to rush to decide.”
Moreover, speaking to his supporters in the streets in the hours following the failed coup, Erdogan had promised: “We will clean up the institutions” and that’s what is happening. The consequences of Erdogan’s iron fist weighed on a summit of foreign ministers who had other items on the agenda: the relationship with China, immigration and the fight against terrorism, the latter point requested by France after the attack in Nice.
However, the Turkish question won’t be easily resolved in Brussels, because what happens in the next few hours could have important repercussions for the union. While it is a general desire to stay firm with respect to the rule of law — and therefore its values — it is also true that Erdogan holds the key to migration flows to Europe. It’s no coincidence that on Monday E.U. Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas pointed out that for Brussels that agreement is not at risk: “We continue to fully respect the agreement, and we expect Turkey to do the same,” he said, putting into evidence Europe’s fears.
Those fears can also be seen in the reactions of some countries, such as Bulgaria, which on Monday sent another 230 soldiers to guard the border with Turkey, worried that the chaos in Turkey may push Syrian refugees in the country to move their direction. Or Macedonia, whose government gathered in an extraordinary session to assess what steps should be taken if Greece were to start the flow of refugees seen in 2015. Exaggerated reactions — hysteria probably — but they clearly indicate the current mood of the continent.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.