Thursday

15th Nov 2018

MEPs intensify push to halt Turkey talks

  • Turkey dismissed another 15,000 civil servants earlier this week (Photo: Reuters)

The EU wants to maintain membership talks with Turkey but MEPs are calling for them to be suspended, amid an intensifying crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the EU parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday (22 November) that any move to annul Turkey's membership to the EU would be a lost opportunity.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"If the accession process came to an end I believe we would both find ourselves in a lose-lose scenario," she said.

But Erdogan has hinted that he would support the reinstatement of the death penalty, a move that Mogherini has set as a red line for the EU.

The EU parliament will vote on a non-binding resolution on Thursday to freeze accession talks, given the government-led purge in Ankara against so-called terrorists and state saboteurs.

The leaders of all the major political groups in the Strasbourg-assembly have voiced their support for the motion.

"We cannot have any further talks with Turkey under these conditions," said Manfred Weber, a German MEP who leads the centre-right EPP group.

Weber said the resolution on Thursday will send a "political signal" to the Council, representing member states, to "formally freeze" Turkey's accession path towards EU membership.

"It is kind of confusing to see that foreign ministers are very harsh in their language but still are incapable of taking a further decision on this, which is clearly what we need," he said.

Ankara says it is rooting out a "deep state" loyal to Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric accused of orchestrating an attempted military coup in mid-July.

Relations with the EU were already fraying prior to the coup when Ankara moved to lift the immunity of MPs in May, opening up prosecutions against opposition parties. Relations further soured in the wake of the failed coup with both sides accusing the other of backsliding on democracy.

Another 15,000 dismissed

Turkey has arrested some 130,000 people since July. Around 40,000 are being held without charge. It has also jailed 145 journalists, more than any other nation.

Judges, lawyers and around a dozen members of the opposition HDP party are also in prison. Reports are also emerging of torture and suicides of those behind bars.

Turkey was granted candidate status in 1999 but had to wait until 2005 before formal talks started given the wider opposition from Belgium, France, and Germany.

In 1995, Turkey signed a Customs Union with the EU to enhance bilateral trade.

German centre-right Elmar Brok, who chairs the EU parliaments foreign affairs committee, noted some two-thirds of Turkey's direct foreign investment come from the EU.

Socialist party leader Gianni Pittella said the EU parliament is not trying to end relations with Turkey. "This is a very very provisional temporary freezing, we will review the situation in a few months," he said.

He said the freeze won't have any bearing on the Customs Union or on the migrant swap deal signed off with Ankara earlier this year.

"If you [Erdogan] are going to continue along these lines , we will continue with harder measures, but for the time being, we will just introduce this freezing," he said.

On Tuesday, prior to the Strasbourg debate at the EU parliament, Ankara widened its crackdown and dismissed another 15,000 civil servants. Erdogan remains defiant despite Western pressure and has accused Germany of harbouring terrorists associated with Kurdish rebel group PKK.

The EU commission earlier this month accused the country of "backsliding" in human rights and democracy. Erdogan said if the EU did not end the membership talks then he would ask for a referendum on the issue.

Turkey has endured a recent spate of bombings from both Islamic State militants and the PKK. The general insecurity in the country appears to have emboldened Erdogan to secure even greater executive powers.

Nationalists in the parliament on Tuesday backed a proposal to amend the constitution that could pave the way for him to remain in office until 2029. Nato member Turkey has also signalled a shift towards the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Chinese and Russian-led alliance.

Nato reassures allies on Trump and Erdogan

Nato chief voiced confidence that both the US and Turkey would remain steadfast allies despite Trump's win and Turkey's post-coup anger at Western powers.

EU in damage control on festering Turkey relations

The EU commission wants to maintain relations with Turkey, despite an EU parliament vote to suspend accession talks amid renewed threats from Ankara to scrap a migrant swap deal.

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

News in Brief

  1. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  2. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  3. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  4. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  5. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  6. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  7. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  8. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  2. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  3. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  4. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  5. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  6. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  7. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  8. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us