EU says will assess planned Turkish constitutional changes

The European Union will assess planned constitutional changes in Turkey in light of the country’s status as a candidate for membership in the 28-member bloc, the European Commission said on March 13.

“The proposed amendments, if approved at the referendum of 16 April, and especially their practical implementation, will be assessed in light of Turkey’s obligations as an EU candidate country and as a member of the Council of Europe,” the European Commission said in a statement.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have both said the referendum is needed to stabilize the country, though several European politicians have criticized his approach.

Discussions between Ankara and Brussels on the accession process have stalled following Turkey’s objection to an EU demand on a change to the country’s anti-terror law last summer. 

The dispute also led to problems in a Turkey-EU deal on immigrants that includes European aid to Turkey for migrants in exchange for a readmission agreement to cut the flow of migrants to the continent from Turkey. Still, the deal is partially being implemented. 

Separately, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on March 12 that it was difficult to continue working with Turkey on economic aid because of a row over Turkish ministers campaigning in EU countries and the arrest of a German-Turkish journalist in Turkey.

“In these circumstances it is of course extremely difficult to continue working on that,” he told Germany’s ZDF public broadcaster. 

“We don’t want to escalate it, everyone in the German government is agreed, we only want Turkey to return to reason,” Schaeuble said.

Berlin has demanded the immediate release of a German-Turkish journalist, Deniz Yücel, who was detained on terrorism charges in mid-February before being arrested at the end of the month.

The editor-in-chief of German newspaper Die Welt penned a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week, asking for the release of Yücel, the newspaper’s Istanbul correspondent.

Turkey says the decision over Yücel is not a political one, and only the courts are authorized to make a decision, not the government. 

Still, Erdoğan has already declared Yücel a “terrorist” in his public pronouncements.

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