European parliament committee calls for suspending Turkey accession talks

The foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of suspending accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union, citing human rights abuses and the concentration of power.

“Contrary to the member states and the European Commission, the European Parliament does not shy away from taking a clear stance on the accession negotiations with Turkey,” Marietje Schaake, a member of the committee, said in a statement.

She said human rights violations and arrests of journalists occurred on an almost daily basis in Turkey while democracy and the rule of law had been undermined. 

Schaake also said constitutional changes adopted in 2017 giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan executive powers also made Turkey’s EU membership impossible

“The message of the parliament today is crystal clear. We attach consequences to Erdoğan’s authoritarian grip on power,” she said. 

Schaake said the suspension of negotiations would not mean Europe should cut all ties with Turkey. 

“Cooperation between the EU and Turkey on such issues as security, trade and migration is key, but needs to always be conditional on respect for human rights and democracy,” the Dutch politician said.

She also said financial assistance provided by the EU to Turkey should be directed to civil society activities and student exchange programmes. 

The entire European Parliament will vote on a report on Turkey during its next plenary session in Strasbourg on March 11. 

The draft annual report, published in November, cites serious concerns on measures curtailing freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information, condemns the closures of media outlets and arrests of journalists. The report also mentions the shrinking space for civil society and the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms.

The European Parliament has only an advisory role on whether to halt accession talks with Turkey. The final decision is made by member states’ heads of government meeting in the European Council.