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Germany stuck between Turkish assault on press freedom and refugee crisis

Germany has condemned the deterioration of press freedom in Turkey after authorities took control of a top opposition paper. But for many such condemnations ring hollow.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday joined the chorus of criticism raining down on the Turkish government after it

seized of one of the country's top opposition dailies.

"We are monitoring this with concern," Steinmeier told reporters on Monday. "We must discuss with Turkey their interpretation and understanding of civil rights and liberties," he added, echoing concerns voiced by other European leaders.

The violent weekend raid and takeover of "Zaman," the largest circulating opposition paper in the country, was the latest blow to press freedom in Turkey, a country the EU and

particularly Germany are relying on to stem the flow of refugees.

Eroding press freedom in Turkey was to be brought up as a subtopic of a larger agenda at a Monday EU summit in Brussels, where European and Turkish leaders were to hammer out a final deal on the refugee crisis. Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, discussed the Zaman takeover and press freedom with her Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

Watch video 01:34

Black day for democracy in Turkey

But discussions with the Turkish leadership have done little to thwart the Turkish government's steady path down the road towards authoritarianism and away from European values.

Indeed, as condemnations against Turkey's actions over the past several years have rolled off the tongues of Western leaders and diplomats, Turkey has gone down an ever more dangerous trajectory.

The pivotal NATO ally and EU candidate country faces deep political polarization, a

Kurdish insurgency bordering on civil war,

blowback from Syria and a deterioration in human rights and the rule of law.

This all comes as the EU needs Turkey more than ever to cooperate in halting refugees, a position that provides the Turkish leadership with both the leverage and cover to continue down an anti-democratic path that may have longer-term repercussions for Europe.

Gokhan Bacik, a political scientist and columnist for "Today's Zaman," the English version of Zaman, wrote on Monday that the EU's response to the deterioration of democracy has been shameful.

"The EU seems to have forgotten its essential values like democracy; instead, what we have is an organization that 'worries' and only 'takes notes' about graphic violations of basic democratic standards in a candidate country," Bacik wrote in a column that appeared on an alternative website after Zaman was taken over by the government.

"The EU should know that non-democratic and authoritarian methods cannot guarantee its security and stability. I am afraid this 'cheap and myopic paradigm' that runs the EU foreign policy today may transform countries like Turkey into deeply chaotic places," he warned.

cw/jil (AFP, dpa)

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