Turkey’s failure to meet conditions to improve rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom led it to lose €70 million in pre-accession EU funds.
Since the 2016 failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has jailed more than 150 journalists, with many being charged with terrorism over critical articles they wrote and shared on social media.
The 2018 Word Press Freedom Index placed Turkey 157 out of 180 countries, with one third of imprisoned journalists around the globe languishing in Turkish prisons. Moreover some 180 media outlets have been shut down and an estimated 2,500 journalists and other media workers now out of work.
Anti-terror laws enacted since the failed military coup have led to the arrest of some 160,000 people, including academics, civil servants, army officers, lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.
The MEPs Budget Committee voted in favour of cancelling the funds on Tuesday and the money will now go to programmes dealing with migration.
During budget negotiations in November, the European Parliament and Council had decided to reserve the money under the condition that “Turkey makes measurable, sufficient improvements in the fields of rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom.”
However, the Commission’s annual report on Turkey, published in April 2018, found that that “Turkey has been significantly moving away from the EU, in particular in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights and through the weakening of effective checks and balances in the political system”.
As a result, the condition set by the budgetary authority has not been met, the Members of the Committee on Budgets said.
They supported the draft amending the budget, in which the Commission proposes transferring the €70 million to reinforce the European Neighbourhood Instrument to cover programmes linked to the Central Mediterranean migratory route and to fulfil part of the EU pledge for Syria. To take effect, it has to be approved by a plenary vote in Parliament, scheduled for 3 October.