European lawmakers voted Thursday for a temporary halt to talks on Turkey joining the European Union, citing concerns over a crackdown by the Turkish government since an attempted coup in July.
In a statement released by the European Parliament, MEPs condemned the “disproportionate repressive measures” taken by Turkey under the state of emergency imposed following the failed coup.
These, they said, “violate basic rights and freedoms protected by the Turkish Constitution” itself.
The resolution, which is non-binding, was approved overwhelmingly — 479 votes to 37, with 107 abstentions.
“Turkey is an important partner of the EU,” the statement said. “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.”
Turkey minister slams resolution
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik dismissed the resolution as “null and void” in a series of tweets, saying it “reflects the EU’s own crisis of values” rather than any EU-Turkey crisis.
“If the purpose is to give a message to Turkey, messages are given by actions not by resolutions,” he said.
He said the European Union could not preach to Turkey on democracy and warned that the resolution only serves “the objectives of far right, Islamophobia and xenophobia.”
EU lawmakers said they would review their position on the suspension when the measures taken under the state of emergency are lifted. They added that Turkey should remain “anchored” to the 28-nation bloc.
The coup attempt — and heavy-handed response led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — has greatly strained Turkey’s relations with the European Union.
Erdogan vowed to root out perceived enemies of the state and led an intense crackdown on government critics and the PKK, as well as those with alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the coup attempt.
Hundreds of military officers have been suspended, thousands of teachers have been dismissed, public servants sacked and media organizations shut down.
In the wake of the failed coup, Turkey also announced it would consider reintroducing the death penalty. Such a policy puts it directly at odds with EU members.
Erdogan told CNN he would approve reinstating the death penalty if lawmakers backed the measure in parliament.
In a speech Tuesday in France, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU relationship with Turkey “is at a crossroads, because Turkey is at a crossroads.”
The European Union supports Turkish democracy, she said, but it needs “full clarity” from Ankara on what it wants, in the face of “a long list of extremely worrying developments” such as restrictions on the freedom of expression and the arrests of journalists and academics.
In addition, she said, “it’s clear that moving from rhetoric to action on the issue of the death penalty would be a clear signal that Turkey does not want to be a member of the European family.”
Negotiations on Turkey joining the European Union began in 2005 but progress has been very slow.