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EU monitors the debate between Dogan and Turkey's ruling AKP

The EU is watching the heated debate between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Dogan Media Group very closely, the Head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey told a Turkish newspaper.

Tensions have flared over the past weeks between the government and the country's largest independent media group, Dogan Holding, over its coverage of corruption allegations that surrounded Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP.

Erdogan had launched a war against the Dogan Media Group sparked by the media group’s coverage of a fraud case in Germany linked to the ruling party.

The issue has prompted debate about freedom of the press in the European Union candidate country.

Despite high expectations from the opposition and civil society for a visible stance on corruption cases and press freedoms in Turkey, Brussels has remained largely reserved.

However, Marc Pierini broke his silence in an interview with Turkish Daily News (TDN) on the controversial domestic politic issues that have dogged the country in recent weeks.

"We are watching the heated debate between the government and the Dogan Group very closely," Marc Pierini told the TDN on Tuesday.

"We talk to both sides. The (EU) commission will make its final judgment at a political level," he added.

He said the judgment on the Deniz Feneri fraud case, which erupted earlier in September, would distort the progress report that evaluates the country's one year performance on progress for alignment with the Acquis.

A court in Frankfurt jailed three managers from the charity's German branch, Deniz Feneri e.V., for directing 14.5 million euros (20.6 million dollars) raised from the Turkish community in Germany into private companies.

Several people based in Turkey, including head of Turkey’s media watchdog, Zahid Akman, were implicated as the masterminds amid claims that the charity, whose founders are close to the government, might have funneled funds into the prime minister's AKP.

The EU delegation is working to put the final touches on the annual progress report due in November.

Pierini also said that in order to have an effective democracy and to have the Copenhagen criteria fulfilled, what is needed is both the ballot box, which already exists in Turkey, and co-existence between different lifestyles.

“You need to have dialogue between the political forces and in a way of some form of modernization for the co-existence between different lifestyles because, obviously, that does not come automatically from elections. You have elections, you have a certain result, but you still have a problem of co-existence,” he added.

Conservative practices applied by the AKP-led municipalities, including an alleged alcohol ban and violence against shopkeepers selling alcohol, has recently made headlines in newspapers. Pierini said the EU was closely watching such incidents and proposing an ombudsman system to regulate the coexistence of different styles.

“But still, probably this is one way, of course, not the only one, but one way to regulate different lifestyles without crisis all the time. This is a very delicate balance that Turkey has to find. We are well aware that there are different trends in the society but, at the same time, democracy is to organize these…So we are watching,” he concluded.

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