EU Parliament recommends halt to Turkey membership talks over Erdogan crackdown

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a speech to teachers during a ceremony on Nov 24, 2016 marking Teachers' Day, at Bestepe People's Congress and Culture Center in the Presidential Complex in Ankara.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a speech to teachers during a ceremony on Nov 24, 2016 marking Teachers' Day, at Bestepe People's Congress and Culture Center in the Presidential Complex in Ankara.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - The European Parliament called for a halt to EU membership talks with Turkey in a non-binding move that highlights the depth of concern in Europe over Turkish authorities' heightened crackdown on political opponents.

In a resolution sponsored by all its main political groups, the European Union assembly urged EU governments "to initiate a temporary freeze of the ongoing accession negotiations with Turkey". 

The 28-nation body endorsed the motion on Thursday (Nov 24) in Strasbourg, France.

European parties ranging from Christian Democrats to ex-communists have demanded the EU show Turkey a red card for arresting around 150 journalists, detaining more than 2,300 judges and prosecutors, and suspending or dismissing almost 130,000 public employees in response to a failed coup in July against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Anger in Europe boiled over earlier this month when Turkish authorities extended the crackdown by detaining Kurdish lawmakers.

The EU Parliament said in its resolution that Turkish "repressive measures" taken under a state of emergency imposed after the bungled coup attempt violate basic democratic values.

In demanding the freezing of Turkey's 11-year-long EU accession negotiations, the 751-seat assembly said it "commits to reviewing its position when the disproportionate measures under the state of emergency in Turkey are lifted".

The suspension call is also directed at the European Commission, the EU's Brussels-based executive arm, which along with national governments is seeking continued Turkish cooperation in upholding a March agreement to stem the flow of Middle East refugees into Europe.

On Tuesday (Nov 22), the commission's top diplomat, Ms Federica Mogherini, argued against a halt to membership talks.

"The best way to strengthening Turkey's democracy, the most effective way, is by engaging with Turkey, by keeping channels open," Ms Mogherini told the EU Parliament. "The accession process has achieved important results in many fields."