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MEPs vote on plans to suspend accession talks with Turkey should controversial changes to its constitution go ahead.

☪ ⚠ ⛔ The 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.

☪ ⚠ ⛔ 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.

☪ ⚠ ⛔ The resolution also recognises 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 Parliament is planning to send an ad-hoc delegation to Ankara in the autumn with the aim of renewing parliamentary dialogue.

☪ ⚠ ⛔ The resolution was approved by 477 votes to 64, with 97 abstentions.

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MEPs raise the alarm on EU accession talks

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 recognises 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. [Adopted text will soon be available here (06.07.2017) ]The Parliament is planning to send an ad-hoc delegation to Ankara in the autumn with the aim of renewing parliamentary dialogue.

Parliament’s rapporteur Kati Piri (S&D, NL)said: ”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. Together with you [Turkish people] we hope “Adalet” (justice) will return to Turkey soon.”

Background information

procedure for suspending EU accession negotiations is set out in article 5 of the Negotiating Framework for Turkey.This 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”.

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Is it time for Turkey and the EU to go their separate ways? Developments in Turkey continue to concern MEPs, especially regarding human rights and the upcoming reform of the constitution to give the country’s president more powers. On Wednesday they debate Turkey’s recent efforts towards joining the EU. They also voted on a resolution [Voting] + [amendements] + [Full debate]on Thursday, asking for EU accession talks to be suspended if the proposed changes to the Turkish constitution go ahead. To find out more we talked to report author Kati Piri, a Dutch member of the S&D group.

What would be the Parliament’s red lines? What would be the impact of suspending the talks?

If Turkey would reintroduce the death penalty again, if they bring this constitutional package into force, there can be no other consequence than to stop talking about integrating Turkey into the EU. That doesn’t mean we should stop all forms of cooperation.

The impact of suspending talks in terms of finances would be several hundred million euros a year, which go with pre-accession funds to Turkey. The Parliament asks that if the suspension comes into force to use this money to directly fund civil society in Turkey. But of course politically, if we come to that point, this will mean that 60 years of Turkey trying to move closer to Europe is coming to a drastic end.

Although relations with Turkey have deteriorated, it remains a key partner on issues such as migration and terrorism. How do we ensure we still maintain a meaningful cooperation?

Turkey is despite the policies of this government a very important partner in many fields. So this Parliament is not saying, let’s stop cooperating with Turkey.

Europe is cooperating with many countries in the world which are not in accession negotiations. We are trying to make agreements on for instance migration with many countries which aren’t even on the European continent.

What option does the EU have to promote democracy and human rights in Turkey?

The EU has to change its current policy. Right now EU leaders, except for this European Parliament, choose a strategy awaiting, hoping, that things will one day go better in Turkey. They are not setting limits. With that they are boosting authoritarianism in the country.

You cannot just sit around, wait, and talk nice with President Erdogan while you see that the situation inside Turkey is only further and further deteriorating. The EU has to speak out and that is what this Parliament is doing.

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Suspend EU-Turkey accession talks if constitutional reform is implemented unchanged

“The Turkish government has deceived its own citizens. The constitutional changes are incompatible with the Copenhagen Criteria which is the non-negotiable basis for membership of the European Union. We consequently call to formally suspend – which de facto means the end of – accession negotiations if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged. The pre-accession funds should also be stopped simultaneously”, said Renate Sommer MEP,the EPP Group’s standing Rapporteur on Turkey ahead of the European Parliament’s vote on the 2016 progress report.

According to Sommer, the constitutional referendum last April which allowed for the shifting of the Turkish regime to an executive presidential system, was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It could, however, have been avoided if the European Parliament had not delayed the adoption of its position.

“I cannot understand why the Rapporteur delayed this year’s report to this date. It would have made much more sense if the European Parliament had already clearly pointed out the effects and consequences of the proposed constitutional amendments before the April referendum. Then, the Turkish voters would have known in time that a ‘yes’ to the presidential system meant a clear denial of the country’s EU candidacy”, Sommer said.

She insisted, however, on the strategic importance of a close and privileged relationship between the EU and Turkey, based on the rule of law and on the respect of the fundamental freedoms and democratic values.

“We need to work together in the future and ensure that the report which is submitted to votes calls for the deepening of EU-Turkey relations in key areas of joint interest. The best idea would be to improve the customs union. But that is not a low-hanging fruit either. We are demanding conditionality provisions on the respect for democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights”, she concluded.

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S&D Group calls to suspend accession talks with Turkey

A large majority in the European Parliament today supported a call to formally suspend accession talks with Ankara when the new constitution comes into force.

One year after the heinous coup attempt, the Turkish population is paying a heavy price with the government pursuing a wide-ranging purge against not only alleged followers of Fethullah Gülen, but also all critics of the government. ‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ is the credo applied by the Turkish government. Academics, mayors, university rectors, opposition politicians and journalists are all labelled as ‘terrorists’, if they dare to speak out against President Erdoğan’s policies. With the state of emergency in place, tens of thousands have been fired from one day to the next and 50,000 people are in prison – all without having the chance to defend themselves in court. Such blatant breaches of democratic standards and the rule of law in country which is a candidate for EU membership must also have consequences for EU-Turkey relations.

The European Parliament’s lead negotiator on Turkey, S&D MEP Kati Piri said:

“It is clear that co-operation is needed with Turkey, but if the new constitution is implemented in a way that runs contrary to EU democratic standards, accession talks with the current Turkish government must be ended. The EU’s financial assistance, which is now directed to Ankara, should then be made available to directly support Turkish civil society – the people who believe in the EU as an anchor for reforms in their country.”

This is the time to stand in solidarity with the millions of people in Turkey who believe in European values, with all those who dared to speak out during the referendum and with those who are marching from Ankara to Istanbul pleading for justice. The EU cannot remain silent over Ankara’s consistent and serious breaches of fundamental rights. In contrast, the current strategy of the European Commission and EU leaders seems to wait silently for things to improve in Turkey. This is not just feeding President Erdoğan’s authoritarianism; it also fuels Euroscepticism among the European population and sends the wrong signal to the other candidate countries in the Western Balkans. Waiting, pretending and looking away is not a smart policy. The European Parliament expects the EU to stand up for its own values.

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EU must review Turkish accession talks in light of damning report

The most damning report yet produced by the European Parliament on Turkey’s suitability for accession into the EU has been debated by MEPs in Strasbourg today, with GUE/NGL MEPs calling for a resolution to the Cyprus issue and for fundamental rights to be upheld.

The ‘Report on Turkey’ is an annual assessment by MEPs on the country’s progress towards meeting the criteria for membership of the EU, and the 2016 edition coincided with a tumultuous year that included an attempted coup, terrorist attacks as well as increasing authoritarianism and countless violations of fundamental rights across Turkish and Kurdish societies.

For GUE/NGL group shadow Takis Hadjiegeorgiou, the Cyprus issue remains critical to Turkey’s prospective membership amidst ongoing talks in Switzerland to reunify the island:

“The report captures vividly the current state of affairs in Turkey. Right now, the negotiations of the Cyprus problem are at a critical juncture. Currently, Turkey occupies one-third of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriot side has said that part of this land can be under Turkish Cypriot administration.”

“Why then does the Cyprus problem remain unresolved? The answer is that Turkey does not want to leave Cyprus. Τhe European Commission, Council and Parliament must therefore exert their influence upon Turkey to end its occupation of Cyprus,” Hadjiegeorgiou said.

Meanwhile, Greek MEP Kostas Chrysogonos said that the EU must wake up to Turkey’s hypocrisy and should not be rewarding bad behaviour by upgrading the Customs agreement:

“For twelve years, Turkey has behaved like a hypocrite. It says that it wants to come into line with the European Union and the EU pretends that it believes that.”

“But in practice, the Turkish regime has become increasingly autocratic internally, and increasingly aggressive vis-a-vis neighbouring countries.”

“There have been talks about upgrading and modernising the Customs Union on both sides, and that there’ll be a liberalisation of the visa regime for Turkish citizens – but if we don’t take into consideration the true circumstances, we are not in favour of voting for this report,”

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MEPs sharply criticize human rights violations in Turkey

In a parliamentary report approved today, the European Parliament has strongly criticised the Turkish government. As well as outlining the systematic violation of human rights and the persecution of opposition, the report calls for the suspension of EU accession talks should the proposed constitutional reforms supported in the recent referendum be implemented unchanged.

Bodil Valero, shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, comments:

“The Greens want to see Turkey return to democracy and a shared future with the EU. However, it is clear than accession negotiations cannot progress as long as Erdogan continues down such an anti-democratic path. It is now up to Erdogan, the Turkish Parliament and Turkish voters to forge a new direction.

“On terrorism and migration, the EU needs to drastically reconsider its relationship with Turkey. We cannot cooperate on terrorism with a country whose own laws can impact on anyone whose views differ from those of the president. The EU-Turkey migration deal has to end. Not only has it failed to protect refugees who find themselves stuck in Turkey, it leaves the EU worryingly dependent on Erdogan. Member States must show solidarity and share the responsibility of receiving refugees.”

Ska Keller, President of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, comments:

“The European Parliament has today strongly condemned the dramatic human rights situation in Turkey. MEPs have made clear that there can be no negotiations with Turkey as long as President Erdogan continues the brutal persecution of opposition members and independent journalists. President Erdogan cannot expect the EU to hold the door open while he tramples on European values.

“The clear criticism on President Erdogan is also a clear message to those Turkish people who are standing up against the authoritarian course of the Turkish president. The EU must not forget these people and has to continue to remain in close contact with Turkish civil society and support it.

“The Greens demand that negotiations for the deepening of economic relations may only begin when President Erdogan stops violently oppressing the opposition and imprisoning critical journalists. Instead of capitulating out of economic interest, the EU should use Erdogan’s interest in trade as leverage to push him to recognise and protect human rights. It is a mistake that the majority of the European Parliament has not yet come round to this position.”

[Source: European Parliament and Political Groups]

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Could Parliament call for a suspension of accession talks? (Türkçe)

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