The European Commission expresses its criticism regarding the growing authoritarianism under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In their 2022 report on Turkey, officials from the European External Action Service stated, “The EU remains deeply concerned about the ongoing deterioration of democracy, the rule of law, fundamental rights, and the independence of the judiciary, with no significant actions taken to address these concerns.”
Instead, backsliding continues, they wrote. Their “concerns increased over economic governance and the good functioning of the market economy.”
Still, the report said, Turkey remains a strategically important partner on migration, climate protection and energy security. With its well-equipped military, the NATO member also plays an important role as a broker of the grain trade agreement between Russia and Ukraine. But EU leaders strongly criticized Turkey’s threatening gestures toward member states Greece and Cyprus through repeated territorial violations by the air force and navy.
The EU has also repeatedly called on Turkish authorities to respect rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and release activist Osman Kavala, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2022 for taking part in anti-government protests in 2013 at Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The protests have been cast as an attempted coup by Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government — allowing the government to accuse Kavala of participating in a coup attempt by extension.
According to an analysis by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, relations have been characterized by ups and downs for decades. After the alleged coup attempt against Erdogan in July 2016, to which Turkey responded with emergency laws and restrictions on democratic rights, things have further deteriorated, the ministry acknowledged.
But the “EU’s cold and critical attitude in the aftermath of the underhanded coup of July 15 has caused a crisis of confidence,” according to the ministry. Officials said “a period of weakening of dialogue” arose after their EU counterparts “criticized necessary measures” imposed by Turkey’s government in the aftermath. Erdogan accuses the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in the United States, of plotting the coup.