EU increased criticism towards Turkey

EU increased criticism towards TurkeyThe European Union issued a strong new call on Turkey to resume political dialogue with opposition groups and safeguard its democracy, describing recent developments as "extremely worrying", Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The statement, issued a day before an annual EU assessment of Turkey's progress on meeting criteria for EU accession, noted discussion in Ankara of reintroducing the death penalty following July's failed military coup, a crackdown on the media and the arrests last week of Kurdish lawmakers.

"The EU and its member states ... call on Turkey to safeguard its parliamentary democracy, including the respect for human rights, the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the right of everyone to a fair trial, also in conformity with its commitments as a candidate country (for EU membership)," read the statement issued by foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

"In this regard, the EU and its member states will continue to follow and assess the situation very closely and they stand ready to continue political dialogue with Turkey at all levels, within the established framework," the statement added.

Turkey should pursue the Kurdish PKK as a terrorist group but the arrest of lawmakers from a legal Kurdish party was "polarizing" society, it said.

"A return to a credible political process and to a genuine political dialogue is essential for the country's democracy and stability in the region," the statement said.

The EU is engaged in a delicate stage of its relationship with its large Muslim neighbor, which acts as a buffer between Europe and an unstable Middle East. Since an agreement in March, Turkey has helped to all but end a flow of refugees and migrants to the EU via Greece after a million people arrived last year.

In return, the EU is providing aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey, has pledged to revive Ankara's membership talks and promised to ease visas for Turks visiting Europe.

Visa liberalization, on the table for years, is now held up by disputes over whether Turkey has met a set of requirements that include modifying anti-terrorism laws. The security crackdown after the coup attempt has added to EU reluctance.

With major elections looming over the next year in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where anti-immigration parties are doing well and oppose easing visas for Turks, diplomats say that Brussels is in no hurry to push Turkey into meeting the requirements to complete the deal - especially since the flow of migrants remains at limited, manageable levels.
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