East Europe Backsliding Could Send A Message To Turkey

By Jacob Wilson

In light of what is seen as ‘backsliding’ on EU values by many in the legal community, it is important for the EU to enforce the strict membership requirements for candidate member states.

German Human Rights Commissioner Christoph Strasser stressed the need for the EU to maintain it’s resolve in the face of Turkish human rights abuses and democratic shortcomings. He added that allowing a “discount” or shortcut for EU accession would be unwise.

The Copenhagen political criteria states aspiring members must ensure the: “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.” 

Turkey’s record on human rights and media freedom still leaves a lot to be desired. According to Freedom House, Turkey has suffered a 5 year along decline in media freedom and has restricted reporting on national security and government corruption. Government authorities have “aggressively” used legal tools including defamation, anti-terrorism laws to silence critical media. Treatment of minorities has also been inconsistent with EU principles.

Constitutional law lecturer Michiel Duchateau said Hungary and Poland could be setting a poor example for Turkey to follow.

“The literature on the former candidacy of current Member States suggest they strongly look at the past experiences of current Member States,” he said.

“However, while current experiences may be influential on future candidate member states, it is rather uncertain how much influence that may have.”

ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt said in light of recent developments in Poland, if it were a candidate member state seeking to apply for EU accession in its current position, it would fail.

However, the EU does not have the authority to kick member states out of the EU for backsliding on its entry requirements. Accordingly, it is clear that for an accession agreement to be reached with Turkey not only should it meet Europe’s requirements, but also show a genuine commitment to democratic ideals.

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