leaders are getting ready to discuss once again. The timing of the European Council meeting on June 24-25 is crucial, taking place just after the G7, NATO and -US summits. Following four years of discontent between Brussels and Washington, this has been an exercise in reassurance, looking to reinvent multilateralism for the 21st century.
At the summits, the allies discussed rules for various policy areas, including economy, trade, climate, security and defense, while seeking a common stance against autocracies, particularly Russia and China. If US President Joe Biden and his European allies are serious about standing up to undemocratic regimes, the place to start is , which the European Council should shift its focus to right away.
The US Must Commit to Protecting Central Americans
’s relations with its Western allies have been deteriorating for years. European decision-makers blame this on ’s democratic backsliding and its unilateral , which increasingly runs counter to European interests. Developments in Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and Nagorno-Karabakh, however, have shifted almost the entire focus to .
The proposal for a “positive agenda” with that is “progressive, proportional and reversible.” It is thus conditional on ’s external actions — good regional relations in line with international law — but not clearly linked to the state of democracy. While the European Parliament flagged this in its recent report, a firm stance by the European Council is missing.’s desire to reduce tensions in its neighborhood has eclipsed questions of democracy and rule of law. That is what is behind its
Commitment to Democracy, Everywhere
In March, concerns mounted in the Freedom House, is “not free,” just like Russia and China.when President withdrew from the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women. This was clearly the continuation of a long-term trend limiting basic rights and freedoms. The new presidential system in has eliminated most of the checks and balances. Civil society is under immense pressure. Democratically elected representatives have been removed and prosecuted. Last but not least, the state prosecutor has applied to the constitutional court to ban the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). According to
This situation threatens the credibility of the transatlantic allies’ commitment to democracy, rule of law, and basic rights and freedoms. According to the summit’s communiqué, the G7 is committed to upholding a rules-based international system and defending values. That is also the promise of NATO and the transatlantic allies.
Selective application would undermine that commitment: The rules apply to a rising China challenging Western economies, but not if you can get a bargain within the Eastern Mediterranean. Those who prioritize geopolitics over principles might argue that receives less criticism as a NATO ally and strategically important accession candidate on the ’s doorstep. Yet even if the dropped the entire democratic conditionality framework, it would still risk being affected negatively by democratic backsliding and erosion of rule of law. Recent examples include ’s unlawful detention of and US citizens and arbitrary decisions to move refugees to its borders with Greece in 2020. Not to speak of the future risks to European investments.
European leaders may think that criticizing domestic repression inwould put positive developments at risk. There are no guarantees, however, that advances in the Eastern Mediterranean or relations with Greece, Cyprus or other member states will not be suddenly reversed, for example, to rally nationalists behind the current government.
leaders must know that there can be no guarantees for the union as long as instability prevails in . The situation in the country has been exacerbated by deficits in democracy and rule of law. If European leaders choose to settle for a fragile status quo rather than promoting core values, they may still end up at odds with , while undermining the values they keep vowing to defend.
Serious About Democracy? Time to Speak Up
European leaders will try to buy time again, as they did at the European Council meetings in October and December 2020 and March 2021. But there is a window of opportunity.is on a charm offensive with its Western allies, needing an economic boost and trying to avoid European and American sanctions. While the government is determined to stay in charge, power struggles are emerging within the state apparatus. This is definitely the right time to set the tone, one that focuses on democracy.
Action onis also needed to show the broader world that the G7, and NATO mean what they said at the recent summits. Democracy will be an important component of external action. If the cannot apply this principle to such a close neighbor, ally and accession candidate, what does that say about the democracy agenda?
*[This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), which advises the German government and Bundestag on all questions related to foreign and security policy.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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