Erdogan slams EU, justifies death penalty in controversial interview

European leaders are "insincere" for failing to uphold a migration deal with Turkey, argued Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a late-night interview with German broadcaster Monday, adding further strains to EU-Turkey ties.

Erdogan also used the show to once again air proposals to reintroduce the death penalty, an idea that has come to the front since a failed coup earlier this month which, if implemented, would almost certainly doom long-stalled negotiations to let Turkey join the EU.

Turkey is currently conducting a sweeping purge of alleged supporters of the attempted coup, with tens of thousands of people suspended from the civil service and some 13,000 detained. Investigations are ongoing.

The widespread nature of the purge has troubled Western allies and raised questions about the migration deal, under which Europe promised to provide refugee aid to Turkey in exchange for the country reducing the flow of migrants departing Turkey for Europe.

Erdogan said that the European Union had transferred only up to 2 million euros (2.2 million dollars) of the 3 billion euros it promised to Ankara over two years under the deal.

But the European Commission, the EU's executive, argues that nearly 106 million euros have been disbursed, mostly to international organizations that work with refugees in Turkey.

How the money is distributed has long been a source of contention between Turkey and the EU, with Ankara wanting control over the funds. A Turkish government official did not respond to a request for clarification.

The EU has allocated a total of 740 million euros so far, a figure that will increase to 2.1 billion euros by the end of the month, according to commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

"The EU is respecting its commitments and suggestions to the contrary are not true," he added, noting that the funds are "for refugees and for the host communities, not for Turkey and the government."

Erdogan also accused the EU of failing to follow through on its pledge to lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens. The EU has said that Turkey still needs to fulfil prerequisite benchmarks, most controversially to restrict its definition of terrorism.

The EU is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty, but Erdogan said the government's attempt to reintroduce it was in line with the will of the Turkish people and that the punishment existed "almost everywhere" except Europe.

"If we are in a democratic state of law, the people decide. And what are the people saying today? They want the death penalty to be reintroduced," Erdogan told ARD.

"Europe is the only place where there is no death penalty. It exists almost everywhere else," he added.

An opposition lawmaker for Germany's Green party reacted angrily to Erdogan's death penalty comments, saying that it was "bizarre" to consider its reintroduction normal.

The Turkish president's claim that it exists in most countries is "simply wrong," Omid Nouripour told ARD on Tuesday. "The majority of countries that are part of the international community have completely done away with the death penalty."

According to Amnesty International, 103 countries have completely abolished the death penalty, while 31 others do not enforce existing death penalty laws. Fifty-eight countries, meanwhile, still put criminals to death.

The ARD interview with Erdogan was widely derided by German editorialists as a public relations victory for the Turkish leader.

The ARD's "feeble" interview questions resulted in a "guaranteed PR coup" for Erdogan, whose "supporters in Germany will be delighted at how well the Turkish president was able to sell himself," according to an editorial in the conservative FAZ newspaper.

"One gets the impression that the [interviewer] handled Erdogan with kid gloves. That's no way to get to someone like Erdogan," an editorial in WAZ, Germany's biggest regional newspaper, said.

Last update: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 15:13
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