MEPs urge the EU to suspend membership talks with Turkey

'Should Turkey reintroduce the death penalty, we need to make very clear as well that such a country cannot become a member of the EU,' says European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber

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The Independent Online

MEPs have urged the European Union to suspend membership talks with Turkey

During a debate in Strasbourg, members of the European Parliament argued accession negotiations should be frozen in the light of political unrest in the country. 

“The EU needs to send a clear message to Turkey. For the European People’s Party (EPP), accession negotiations should be frozen as they cannot continue under the current circumstances,” said Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP.

“Should Turkey reintroduce the death penalty, we need to make very clear as well that such a country cannot become a member of the European Union.” 

“Turkey under Mr Erdogan is more and more drifting towards an authoritarian regime,” said Gianni Pittella of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.”

However, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said suspending the talks would be a lost opportunity. 

“I believe the best way to strengthen Turkey’s democracy – the most effective way – is by engaging with Turkey and by keeping channels open,” she said. 

“If the accession process came to an end, I believe we would both find ourselves in a lose-lose scenario.”

Syed Kamall, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said for too long the EU have “dishonestly dangled” the prospect of Turkey joining the trade bloc in front of the nation and it was time for a more honest relationship. 

“I fully understand why some politicians here and in our national capitals are reluctant to criticise Erdogan. I appreciate that there are much wider geopolitical factors at play.

“Sustaining the EU-Turkey migration deal – after their generosity in hosting three million refugees. Security cooperation. For they too have suffered from terrorist attacks,” Mr Kamall said. 

“And not wanting to push Erdogan into Putin’s arms or into a corner. But we need to be honest with each other. And in wanting to be honest with Turkey. We need to be honest with ourselves.”

Mr Kamall claimed the reason Turkey may not join the EU was because of a “prejudice against a predominantly non-Christian nation, whose land mass is mostly in Asia”.

“Fears over Turkey’s future voting weight in the European Parliament and Council. Concerns over borders with Iran, Syria and Iraq as the EU seeks to extend its Common Security and Defence Policy. To name just a few reasons.

Mr Kamall called on building a new relationship on honesty and not “false promises”. 

“Let us build a new relationship based not necessarily on EU membership but on real cooperation. Let us build a new relationship based not on just fighting today’s fires and problems, but on preparing for the challenges we will all face for decades to come,” Mr Kamall said. 

During the debate, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said President-elect Donald Trump was one of a “ring of autocrats” alongside Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatened to encircle the continent.

“Not only do they like each other, they also have one thing in common. Bashing and destroying our way of thinking, our values, our European liberal democracy,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

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