A large majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament voted today in favour of the suspension of Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union on Thursday, saying President Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on opponents meant Ankara did not meet the bloc’s democratic criteria.
The European Parliament’s lead negotiator on Turkey, S&D MEP Kati Piri said:
“It is clear that co-operation is needed with Turkey, but if the new constitution is implemented in a way that runs contrary to EU democratic standards, accession talks with the current Turkish government must be ended. The EU’s financial assistance, which is now directed to Ankara, should then be made available to directly support Turkish civil society – the people who believe in the EU as an anchor for reforms in their country.”
The European Commission and EU governments have so far ignored calls for a formal suspension of a process already effectively in limbo.
Turkey immediately announced it would reject any proposals to drop European Union accession talks in favor of cooperation in other areas
Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said today, during a visit to Ankara by EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn, that it was wrong for EU lawmakers to call for the suspension of Turkey’s membership talks, adding such approaches did not benefit anyone.
“We reject with the back of our hand any proposals that there should be strong cooperation between Turkey and the EU in other areas instead of accession talks,” Celik told reporters.
Striking a more conciliatory tone, Hahn said he hoped the interaction between the two sides would lead to a higher level of political dialogue.
“I don’t know what will be decided, but I have to stress that the European Parliament is one of the institutions elected by the European citizens. Members of the European Parliament represent the view of their voters,” Hahn said.
EU leaders have been critical of Erdogan and his behavior toward opponents, both before and after an abortive coup against him a year ago. But they do not want to undermine an agreement struck last year whereby Turkey effectively stopped migrants reaching Greece, easing a crisis that had threatened EU unity.
Celik said Turkey had noted the bloc’s criticism regarding its judiciary and freedom of press and expression, but added the EU was blocking the process by not opening new chapters.