EU officials urge Turkey to respect ECHR rulings, express concern over women’s treaty exit

The European Union’s top officials on Tuesday urged Turkey to respect international rules and standards, while expressing concern for the country’s withdrawal from a European treaty aimed at protecting women’s rights.

EU Council President Charles Michel and President of the EU Commission Ursula Von der Leyen made the remarks during a press conference following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  at the Presidential Complex in Ankara.

The visit by the pair arrives after the bloc agreed to offer Ankara new incentives despite ongoing concerns over Turkey’s energy ambitions in the eastern Mediterranea, and the country’s backslide on democratic and human rights.

“Respect for fundamental rights and rule of law crucial for the EU,’’ T24 news site cited von Der Leyen said, noting that Ankara must ‘’respect international rules and standards.’’

The EU chief said the bloc was “deeply worried’’ about Turkey’s exit from the Istanbul Convention, which she said sent the wrong signal.

Erdoğan last month pulled Turkey out the convention aimed at combating violence against women in a move seen as blow to the country’s women’s rights movement amid an increase in femicides and domestic violence cases.

 “The EU will never hesitate to point out negative developments, including unilateral actions against member states,’’ Von der Leyen added.

Human rights issues have priority for the EU, she added, while recalling rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the release Turkish businessman Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, jailed on espionage and terror charges, respectively.

“It is important that Turkey respects ECHR rulings,’’ she said.

The EU chief also said Ankara’s adherence to a 2016 migrant agreement with the bloc would be a “major show of goodwill.”

“The Commission will soon make a proposal that reflects … principles” including better opportunities for refugees and a Turkish commitment to prevent irregular departures,’’ the EU chief said. “I am very much committed to ensuring the continuity of European funding.”

According to the 2016 deal, the EU promised the allocation of €3 billion in aid to Turkey to help migrants. The deal also included the end of visa restrictions applied to Turkish citizens when travelling to Europe as of June 2016, but the visa restrictions still remain. 

The European Commission will soon make a proposal to Ankara to ensure the flow of funding for refugees, the EU chief said, adding that Europe wants “much better relations” with Ankara, but that it is “still early.”

Turkey has been an official EU candidate country since 1999 and has maintained a customs union deal with the bloc since January 1996. Accession negotiations formally began in October 2005, however have stalled in the last few years due to what is being called Turkey’s failure to comply with required criteria pertaining to the EU candidacy.