The European Parliament voted 479-37 with 107 abstentions last week in order to freeze membership talks until Turkey lifts the "disproportionate measures" taken in the crackdown following the “failed coup” last July.
Members of the European Parliament asked for a temporary freeze on EU accession talks with Ankara, saying 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.
Measures, such as the detention of members of the opposition party HDP, are just the most recent steps in a range of actions that limit political rights and freedom of speech, including jailing journalists and closing down media outlets.
In her speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told European Parliament members that the relationship with Turkey is now at a crossroads. Turkey is about to lose part of its heritage of being a bridge between cultures and peoples and a mediating force in the Middle Eastern region, she added. Political developments in the country are extremely worrying, but according to Mogherini, the EU accession process is the best way to defend democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights. She pointed out that, if accession talks came to an end, the EU would lose the most important channel of dialogue and influence.
Contrary to the Commission, the European Parliament wanted to send a strong sign to Erdoğan, therefore urging the Commission and the Council to freeze the accession process. In the past, negotiations with Turkey were guided by ensuring democracy and freedom as Rebecca Harms, the co-president of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament, said in her last plenary speech as co-leader of the group. During the debate, it was underlined how under Erdoğan many positive achievements have been reversed and a potential reintroduction of the death penalty would be a major blow to all efforts to commit Turkey to European rights and values. Moreover, by agreeing on a mechanism that prevents refugees from entering the EU, the European Council provided Erdoğan with a strong tool to blackmail the European Union. Green MEPs Bodil Valero (Sweden) and Ska Keller (Germany) called for an immediate end of the EU-Turkey agreement while still maintaining financial support for the refugee camps in Turkey and its neighbouring countries.
While the resolution voted by the European Parliament is not legally binding because Parliament has no formal role in the initial triggering of such mechanisms, the European Council will meet on the 16 and 17 December for a final decision on the issue.
The procedure for suspending EU accession negotiations is set out in Article 5 of the Negotiating Framework with Turkey, which stipulates that “in the case of a serious and persistent breach in Turkey of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the Union is founded, the Commission will, on its own initiative or on the request of one third of the Member States, recommend the suspension of negotiations and propose the conditions for eventual resumption".
Photo: Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms addresses the European Parliament plenary session on EU-Turkey relations in Strasbourg via European Parliament