MEPs say Turkey accession talks should be suspended – POLITICO

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Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Lawmakers cite concerns over Ankara’s plans to expand President Erdoğan’s powers and re-institute the death penalty.

Members of the European Parliament said Thursday that Turkey’s European Union accession talks should be suspended if proposed changes to its constitution are implemented.

A resolution passed by MEPs in Strasbourg stated that Ankara’s plans to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s powers go against EU membership criteria, and called on the European Commission and member states “to formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged.”

MEPs said the rule of law and media freedom were “backsliding” in Turkey, as a result of the constitutional changes and the government crackdown following last year’s coup attempt. Turkey remains under a state of emergency imposed by Erdoğan after the coup. Tens of thousands of politicians, human rights activists, teachers and soldiers have been jailed or laid off since last summer.

Erdoğan’s April referendum to implement constitutional changes also caused a worsening of relations between Turkey and many European nations. Turkish officials were banned from speaking at rallies in support of the referendum. Erdoğan himself was recently banned by Germany from giving a speech to supporters at the G20 in Hamburg.

The constitutional changes include eliminating the position of prime minister. MEPs said re-instituting the death penalty in Turkey, which Erdoğan has called for, would lead to an immediate end of EU accession talks. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the death penalty is a “red line” in talks.

“This Parliament speaks with one, clear and loud voice in condemning the Turkish government’s serious decline in democratic standards, and continues to support the Turkish population — millions of whom would like to continue to see the EU as an anchor for reforms in their country,” said Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s lead negotiator on Turkey.

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said Turkey viewed Thursday’s vote as invalid and Ankara rejected any proposals to drop EU accession talks.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also rebuked the resolution. “This decision, which is based on false claims and allegations, is trampling the reputation of the institution in question [the European Parliament],” the statement read. “This decision is of no value for us.”



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