The leaders of the European Parliament’s two largest groups have called for the European Union to halt membership talks with Turkey because of its post-coup purges.
- Leaders say human rights, democracy are non-negotiable to be part of EU
- The EU has promised to speed up talks in exchange for help with its migrant crisis
- Top diplomat warns that disengaging Turkey could lead to a “lose-lose scenario”
“Our message to Turkey is very clear: accession negotiations should be frozen immediately,” said Manfred Weber, the head of the largest faction in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party.
He was echoed by Gianni Pitella, the leader of the socialist group, the parliament’s second biggest:
“We want to freeze the accession talks.”
More than 110,000 people in Turkey — including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders — have been suspended from their positions or dismissed over their alleged backing for the plotters of a failed military coup in July.
Some 36,000 have been arrested and media outlets have been shut.
“Turkey under Mr Erdogan is more and more drifting towards an authoritarian regime,” Mr Pitella said, referring to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
“Our political message towards Turkey is that human rights, civil rights, democracy are non-negotiable if you want to be part of the EU.”
EU leaders are due to discuss Turkey again when they meet in Brussels on December 15.
EU top diplomat urges caution against ‘lose-lose scenario’
Mr Erdogan, exasperated with the EU’s intensified criticism of his rights record, has said the bloc would have to “live with the consequences” should it stop the talks and that Ankara could instead join an security alliance run by Russia and China.
In March, the EU promised to speed up Ankara’s accession talks in exchange for its help in keeping asylum seekers away from European shores.
This cooperation, critical for the EU, is still going on but some in the EU worry it could eventually fall victim to spiralling recriminations in relation to the crackdown.
The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, urged caution.
“I think the best way to strengthen Turkish democracy … is by engaging with Turkey, 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.”
Mr Erdogan, who has blamed the EU for not showing enough understanding for the gravity of the situation in Turkey, said he may put the EU talks to a national referendum next year.