Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s first visit to Brussels in five years was planned after a deal on visa-free travel was signed last month.
However, Erdogan’s meetings with all three EU Presidents on Tuesday may be overshadowed by the corruption scandal engulfing Ankara that has led to resignations from his cabinet ministers and a reshuffle.
“It is actually quite ironic that the prime minister and his government, his party, which have boasted about being anti-corruption crusaders for the last couple of years, are now making efforts to protect those that are under investigation,” said Steven Blockmans of the Centre of European Policy Studies.
Erdogan is also under fire over plans to reform the justice system – giving the justice minister more power. The EU says the justice system should remain independent if Turkey does not want to jeopardise its EU candidate member status.
“They (the EU) will seize the opportunity to hammer home the point that Turkey should stick to commitments that it made when it entered accession negotiations and it risks potentially losing that status if and when those reforms are being rolled back,” added Blockmans.
Since December, Erdogan has sacked or reassigned 1,700 top police officers, accusing them of pursuing a political agenda.