European leaders expressed concern following the Yes vote in the referendum in Turkey which gives the president new sweeping powers. Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s push for an executive presidency succeeded with 51.4% of the vote.
The European Commission said the close result means Ankara should seek “the broadest national consensus” in implementing the vote.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Erdogan repeated his intention to review Turkey’s suspension of the death penalty, a step which would almost certainly spell the end of Ankara’s EU accession process.
Further deterioration in relations with the European Union could also jeopardise last year’s deal under which Turkey has curbed the flow of migrants (mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq) into the bloc.
Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), tweeted: “No matter the result: with his referendum President Erdogan is splitting his country.”
In response to the referendum result, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament warned it was “another harsh blow against democracy and rule of law”.
S&D Group president Gianni Pittella said: “This is yet another decisive step away from Europe. Erdogan has closed his doors to the EU with this referendum. The EU accession talks should be suspended once Turkey decides to implement the 18 constitutional amendments.”
“As rapporteur, I’ll continue to stand by all those fighting for democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey,” added S&D MEP Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey. “Today’s outcome shows there are millions of Turkish citizens who share the same European values and who chose a different future for their country. The EU should never close the door to them.”
According to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament, Turkey remains a Nato member and a key strategic partner in addressing common challenges such as the threat of terrorism, stability in the Middle East as well as the refugee and migration crisis.
“But this cooperation should not prevent us from being honest with Turkey, and with President Erdogan,” said Syed Kamall, who chairs the ECR Group. “We will continue to express our concerns over the Turkish government’s respect for liberal democracy, the rule of law and freedom of speech.”
Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the liberal group (ALDE) of MEPs in the European Parliament, warned the EU should stop accession talks if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not change course.
In a similar vein, the European Green Party warned the referendum would “institutionalise a de facto one-man rule making Erdogan an elected dictator”. The party’s co-chairs Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said: “A ‘normalisation’ of Turkey’s domestic and foreign politics is now unlikely to occur as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is carrying out the harshest crackdown in decades. Despite this, the large public opposition to the massive concentration of power in the hands of the president should not be underestimated by the EU.”
The Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) accused Erdogan of abusing Turkish democracy. The group’s president, Gabi Zimmer, said: “If Erdogan continues to oppress large segments of Turkish society with his newly-acquired powers dark times lie ahead. Reintroducing the death penalty will move Turkey farther away from the EU and its values”.