Turkey slams the EU parliament’s call for suspending accession talks

The Turkish foreign Ministry on Thursday said the decision of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament (EP) advising formal suspension of accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union was absolutely unacceptable. 

The committee on Wednesday, with 47 votes in favour and 7 votes against, adopted a draft annual report on Turkey, prepared by Kati Piri, the parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, containing the recommendation. The document will be voted on by the main parliament assembly during a plenary session in Strasbourg on March 11.

“We expect that the necessary corrections will be made to have a more realistic, objective and encouraging final EP report on Turkey. Only such a report will be taken into consideration by our country,” the Turkish ministry said. 

The foreign ministry said that rather than suspending accession talks with Turkey, the EU should remove obstacles preventing its full membership. 

The draft document is based on the 2018 EU Commission Report on Turkey, termed as a progress report but presenting a bleak picture of Turkey’s achievements in seeking to join the EU. While repeating an assertion that human rights and the rule of law have deteriorated in the country, the latest EP report also mentions other problems.

The draft welcomes the Turkish government’s decision in July to lift a two-year state of emergency declared following a coup attempt in 2016, but notes that its termination has had no positive effects as new legislation preserves many of the abusive powers granted to the government under emergency rule. 

The report expresses concerns that Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs has been used in Europe by the Turkish intelligence services to put pressure on the opposition, particularly on members of the Gülen movement, a religious group blamed by the government for orchestrating the coup attempt. 

The report also criticises the actions of the Turkish government against Turkish nationals in third countries, including harassment and kidnappings as well as hotlines through which people are encouraged to report others. It says that Interpol arrest warrants requested by Turkey cannot be misused to target dissidents.

Noting that more than 300,000 passports have been cancelled under emergency rule, the report says that these acts have also affected the relatives of the detainees.

The report also expresses deep concerns regarding the situation in the dominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey following the collapse of a peace process in 2015, saying that a very large number of mayors and co-mayors of the pro-Kurd Democratic People’s Party (HDP) were dismissed from public office or arrested and that the government appointed trustees to replace them. 

The document also states that corruption remains prevalent in many areas of the economy and continues to be a serious problem. Piri also expresses concerns regarding the judicial process in corruption investigations. 

Additionally, the European Parliament mentions shortcomings regarding labour and trade union rights, giving special note to workplace casualties that occurred during the construction of Istanbul’s third airport, which is a flagship project of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.