EU lawmakers call for suspension of Turkey’s accession negotiations

Leading members of the European Parliament on Wednesday called for formally halting talks with Turkey for its EU membership, citing Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans to expand his powers after the approval of constitutional amendments in an April 16 referendum.

According to a Reuters’ report, EU parliamentarians criticized the plan to give Erdoğan more power, saying it will undermine democracy and stifle free speech in Turkey.

“As Turkey with such a constitution cannot become a member of the EU, it doesn’t make sense to continue the discussion on integration. The EU should officially suspend the accession talks if the constitutional changes are implemented unchanged,” Kati Piri, a Dutch center-left European lawmaker who oversees the Turkey portfolio, said during a session at the European Parliament.

Piri said any suspension should only come if and when the “authoritarian constitution” is enacted, which would happen after Turkey holds its next election, now due in late 2019.

“Turkey should remain a candidate country, but we’re negotiating with the government. It’s become clear over the last two years that this government doesn’t want to meet criteria,” she said.

Speaking after Piri, Syed Kamall, a British Conservative and member of the EP, said the EU needed to forge a different relationship with Turkey on trade, security and migration.

“It may be a more difficult relationship but it will be a more honest relationship. More cautious. More critical. Focused more on cooperation and no longer on the distant goal of EU membership,” he said.

German EP member Manfred Weber also said: “It’s time to reassess our relationship to Turkey. Full membership is not realistic. We need to put an end to that hypocrisy.”

Turkish President Erdoğan told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that Turkey would not wait forever to join the bloc. The EU executive has asked Europe’s foreign ministers to consider other types of ties with Turkey when they meet on Friday.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Erdoğanist lawmakers from Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have decided to no longer participate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the council’s Turkey group chairman said on Wednesday. AKP’s Talip Kucukcan said his party and MHP lawmakers decided not to participate in PACE’s plenary sessions following the council’s  monitoring decision on Turkey.

Turkey’s PACE delegation consists of 18 members, including 10 deputies from AK Party, 1 from MHP, five from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and two from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

On Tuesday, PACE decided to re-place Turkey on its monitoring watch list following an investigation into the country’s democratic regression. The assembly had adopted the recommendations of observers by 113 votes to 45, with 12 abstentions. It was the first time Turkey had been placed under monitoring since 2004.

Ties between EU states and Turkey have soured amid human rights concerns following Erdoğan’s sweeping crackdown on suspected supporters of a failed military coup last July. Tens of thousands of people, including soldiers, judges, teachers and civil servants, have been arrested or sacked. (SCF with April 27, 2017

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