Turkey’s EU accession talks should be suspended if proposed changes to the constitution go ahead, as these go against EU membership criteria, warned MEPs on Thursday.
MEPs are concerned about Turkey backsliding in the rule of law, human rights, media freedom, and the fight against corruption. They condemn the repeatedly declared support for the reintroduction of the death penalty by the Turkish President, which would put into question Turkey’s membership in the Council of Europe and lead to an immediate end of EU accession talks.
Taking note of the outcome of Turkey’s recent referendum and the expansion of presidential powers, the resolution calls on the EU Commission and the EU national governments “to formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged.”
MEPs also note in their annual assessment of Turkey’s reform progress that 2016 was a difficult year for Turkey as a result of the war in Syria, the influx of refugees, a string of heinous terror attacks and a coup attempt.
They condemn the coup attempt and express their solidarity with the people of Turkey, but at the same time regret the Turkish government’s disproportionate response, resulting in large-scale dismissal of civil servants, the closing of media outlets, the arrest of journalists, judges and human rights defenders, and the closure of schools and universities.
The resolution also recognizes the importance of good EU-Turkey relations and maintaining a constructive and open dialogue, which is key to addressing common challenges, such as migration, security or terrorism. MEPs support upgrading the EU-Turkey Customs Union, asking for human rights and fundamental freedoms to be a part of a new agreement.
The European Parliament supports a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem, based on bi-communal and bi-zonal federation. It calls on Turkey to show active support for a rapid and successful conclusion to the negotiations and to start withdrawing its troops from Cyprus.
The resolution was approved by 477 votes to 64, with 97 abstentions. The Parliament is planning to send an ad-hoc delegation to Ankara in the autumn with the aim of renewing parliamentary dialogue.