European parliament urges to freeze accession talks with Turkey against call for continued engagement
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European parliament urges to freeze accession talks with Turkey against call for continued engagement

MEPs want a temporary freeze on EU accession talks with Turkey. In a resolution voted last Thursday (24 November), they say that Turkey should nonetheless remain “anchored” to the EU. They also pledge to review their position when the “disproportionate repressive measures” under the state of emergency in Turkey are lifted.

A temporary halt of the negotiations would entail that no new negotiating chapters be opened and no new initiatives be taken in relation to Turkey’s accession process.

“Turkey is an important partner of the EU”, say MEPs. “But in partnerships, the will to cooperate has to be two-sided (…) Turkey is not showing this political will as the government’s actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path.”

MEPs strongly condemned the “disproportionate repressive measures” taken by the Turkish government since the failed coup attempt in July 2016. These “violate basic rights and freedoms protected by the Turkish Constitution” itself.

The re-introduction of the capital punishment by the Turkish government would lead to a formal suspension of the accession process, say MEPs, pointing out that “the unequivocal rejection of the death penalty is an essential element of the Union acquis.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who addressed the assembly, added that the introduction of death penalty would signal that Turkey does not want to join the European Union and share its values. While agreeing with the Parliament that EU’s relations with Turkey are at crossroad, she did not share its conclusion that the accession negotiations should be suspended at this crucial moment.

On the contrary, in a passionate speech she stressed the importance of keeping the channels to Turkey open and engaging with the country in order to strengthen the democracy there and together tackle common issues such as Cyprus, refugees and terrorism. She expressed optimism that the planned constitutional reform in Turkey will go in the right direction.

Her assessment however seems to contradict her own sober analysis of the current crackdown on human rights in Turkey and is hardly shared by intelligence bodies who foresee a process of authoritarian rule and religious extremism in the coming years.

The suspension of accession negotiations falls short of sanctions but may still thrigger Turkish counter-measures. Mogherini did not convince the European Parliament. The resolution to freeze the accession process was approved by 479 votes to 37, with 107 abstentions. The resolution voted by the Parliament is not legally binding. The decision will be taken by the European Council at a summit in December.

The Brussels Times

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