EU’s Juncker reiterates death penalty in Turkey would mean end to EU accession talks

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission President, has reiterated on Wednesday that European Union should continue accession negotiations with Turkey but a reintroduction of the death penalty would clearly put an end to the process.

“I am not of the opinion that the accession negotiations with Turkey should be stopped now,” Juncker said in Berlin during a debate with students about the future of Europe, according to a report by Reuters.

European officials should still try to convince Turkey that it was in its own interest to adopt reforms and move towards Europe instead of turning away from the continent and its values, Juncker said and added “If Turkey will ever become a member state, I do not know.”

Juncker said he recently made clear in a long conversation with Erdoğan that a reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey would be a red line in accession talks. “I told him: If you reintroduce the death penalty, then it’s time to end,” he said.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of a campaign for EU membership. Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said he will approve its reinstatement if parliament submits such a proposal or if the measure is backed in a referendum.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik has reportedly said that “a process of reconciliation between Turkey and the EU to end months of tension is a political –rather than a romantic — necessity.” “Why should we give up on the EU? The EU is a strategic goal for use but this relationship should be pursued in a fair and objective manner,” Çelik told a group of reporters on Wednesday.

“What we are doing is politics, not romanticism. What we are concerned with is our national interests, so we’ll look into how we can proceed,” the minister said. However, Çelik has accused the EU of failing to fulfill its commitments stemming from a migrant deal signed on March 18, 2016, as well as its promises to waive visa restrictions for Turkish nationals and deliver 3 billion euros of aid to Turkey for the resettling of refugees. “The EU is aware that it cannot cut its relationship with Turkey given that latter’s geopolitical importance,” said Çelik.

Tensions between Turkey and the EU are high over rights and security issues, but the bloc depends on the help of NATO ally Ankara on migration and the conflict in Syria. After meeting European Council President Donald Tusk and Juncker last week in Brussels, Erdoğan was quoted as saying he had been presented with a new 12-month timetable for renewing ties.

June 1, 2017

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