Turkey: changing the constitution could end up in freezing EU accession talks
- Concerns on Turkey backsliding in the rule of law and media freedom
- Suspend EU accession talks if changes to the constitution go ahead
- Proposal to upgrade EU-Turkey Customs Union instead
Turkey’s EU accession talks should be suspended if the proposed changes to the constitution go ahead, committee MEPs recommended on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs 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.
The resolution recognises the importance of good EU-Turkey relations and maintaining a constructive and open dialogue, which is key for addressing common challenges, such as migration, security or terrorism. MEPs propose upgrading the EU-Turkey Customs Union, by making human rights and fundamental freedoms part of a new agreement.
However, MEPs think that measures taken in response to the coup attempt are disproportionate, regretting the 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.
Taking note of the outcome of Turkey’s recent referendum and the expansion of presidential powers, the Foreign Affairs Committee 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.”
Committee MEPs are concerned about Turkey’s 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.
The rapporteur Kati Piri (S&D, NL) said: “Despite all internal differences, the European Parliament speaks with one voice when it comes to condemning human rights abuses in Turkey. The continuation of the state of emergency has disproportionately negative effects on Turkish society and the arbitrary arrest of thousands of citizens, including parliamentarians and mayors, is of utmost concern.
As the proposed constitutional reform package is not in line with EU membership criteria, the report calls for the formal suspension of the accession talks if the constitutional amendments are implemented unchanged. We expect the government to take the Venice Commission recommendations seriously, as well as the fact that half of the Turkish population voted against it in the referendum.”
The resolution on Turkey was adopted by 51 votes to 3, with 14 abstentions. The full House is scheduled to vote on it during the next plenary session in Strasbourg on July.