The lawmakers in the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted for the temporary suspension of accession talks with the Turkish government which Brussels criticizes for backpedaling on EU reforms and suspending the rule of law by expanding a political crackdown on opponents and subjugation of judiciary.
In a move to underscore deep anxiety and growing skepticism in the European Union, members of the European Parliament voted 479 to 37 in favor of a non-binding resolution to initiate a temporary freeze on talks with Turkey. To send a clear political message to Turkey, the members called on European Commission, the executive body of the EU, and 28 nations to freeze the negotiation process that went through numerous setbacks and hiatuses in decade-old turbulent relations.
The MPs said, however, that Turkey should nonetheless remain anchored to the EU.
“The European Parliament … strongly condemns disproportionate repressive measures taken in Turkey since the failed military coup attempt in July,” the non-legislative resolution said.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in a debate discussed strained EU-Turkey relations in European Parliament in Strasbourg. The majority of them backed measures, including a temporary freeze on talks with Turkey, for the Turkish government’s disproportionate reaction since July coup attempt that killed hundreds of people.
During the debate, Federica Mogherini, EU’s top foreign policy chief, suggested caution, arguing that end of accession process would place both sides in a lose-lose situation. Mogherini said the EU relationship that Turkey “is at a crossroads, because Turkey is at a crossroads.”
On Thursday, lawmakers also pledged to revisit their stance when Turkey lifts “the disproportionate repressive measures” under the emergency regime.
“Turkey is an important partner of the EU,” the lawmakers noted in a statement released by European Parliament. “But in partnerships, the will to cooperate has to be two-sided (…) Turkey is not showing this political will as the government’s actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path,” they added.
The MPs underlined a clear notion that set the standards for EU membership, saying that “the unequivocal rejection of the death penalty is an essential element of the Union acquis.”
Mogherini, in her Tuesday speech, tossed the same point and highlighted that reinstatement of capital punishment would be a clear indication of the fact that Turkey indeed does not want to become a member of the European family.
The vote, as expected, stirred a wild reaction from Turkish leaders who dismissed the legislation in sharp terms. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim denounced the motion as “null and void.”
Turkish EU Affairs Minister and Chief Negotiator Omer Celik said in a series of tweets that the vote does not refer to a crisis between Turkey and the EU, but to a crisis of EU’s own values.
“EP’s resolution on Turkey is not legally binding. It is just a political text, lack of political correctness & political consistency,” Celik tweeted after the vote. “This resolution is null & void for us. If the purpose is to give a message to Turkey, messages are given by actions, not by resolutions,” he said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously said that Turkey would consider joining Shanghai Cooperation Orgazanvtion (SCO) instead of the EU if talks remain inconclusive and do not bring full membership. He also vowed to completely terminate talks if the EU fails to deliver its promise on a refugee deal sealed in March to stop the influx of Syrian migrants from Turkey to Europe.
Germany, France and other major EU countries still back engagement with Turkey to maintain crucial collaboration on the migrant issue that sow deep divisions among EU members earlier this year after more than 1.2 million refugees descended on economically-stretched bloc members in 2015.
It is not expected that European Commission would heed the non-binding legislation.