Turkey cannot join EU, says top European politician

Turkey “cannot become a member of the European Union,” the politician widely expected to be the next president of the European Commission said on Tuesday.

"On Turkey, I believe in strong cooperation," Manfred Weber, leader of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), told Euronews on Tuesday.

Weber has been tipped to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission president after next month’s European Parliament elections.

"You want to have a strong and solid, good relationship between Turkey and the EU but I think we should be honest and that includes that Turkey cannot become a member of the EU,” he said.

Turkey has officially been a candidate to join the EU since 1999. Accession negotiations started in October 2005 but stalled in 2016 shortly after the two sides reached agreement to stem the refugee crisis, despite accelerated membership talks being one of the deal’s conditions.

In February, the EP foreign affairs committee voted in favour of suspending accession negotiations, citing human rights abuses and the concentration of power.

The next month the EP urged EU leaders to formally suspend accession talks. Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik called that decision "worthless, null and disreputable.''

Earlier this year, the EU criticised Turkey’s "continuing and deeply worrying backsliding in the areas of fundamental rights and the rule of law", according to Euronews.