European Parliament halts Turkey’s accession efforts to join the European family

The European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee drafted on Wednesday the annual report over the status of Turkey’s accession talks to join the European Union. The parliamentary committee decided to suspend accession deliberations with Turkey on the grounds of severe violations recorded since the July 2016 failed coup. The coup, allegedly put in motion by the Turkish President’s fiercest rival and self-exiled to the U.S., spiritual leader Imam Fethullah Gulen, sought to undermine the growing authority of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish state.

The parliamentary committee, with 47 favourable votes, 7 against and 10 abstentions issued a draft report on Wednesday condemning Turkey for violations against a number of pre-accession requirements. These entail among others, repeated violations on civil liberties and human rights of dissident citizens, journalists and minority groups. The report also mentioned the Presidency’s Office growing influence on the judiciary, and mismanagement of public funds, such as the construction of the new Istanbul Airport, which has already exceeded the €10 billion threshold. The report finally concluded with remarks over Turkey’s interfering character in the internal affairs of its near-abroad neighbours, and continuation of border conflicts with Cyprus, Greece and Syria among others.

A Dutch representative of the parliamentary committee, Marietje Schaake, argued that contrary to other European institutions such as the European Commission, the Parliament took a clear-cut stance against Turkey’s prospects to join the European family. This position also contravenes with the appeasing behaviour exhibited by most European states towards Ankara. The European Parliament was forced to take a clear-cut approach to the issue in an attempt to halt an already collapsing accession process.

However, the committee representative also sustained that suspension of accession deliberations does not also infer the severing of ties between Europe and Turkey. Cooperation should remain a priority within the context of security, commercial relations and transnational migration. The Dutch committee member also argued in favour of continuation of European financial assistance and donor programmes towards Turkey. To be effective, these funds should be given directly to civil society institutions and educational initiatives such as student exchange programmes than to state authorities.

The European Parliament will ratify the Foreign Affairs Committee draft on a meeting during the plenary sessions to be held in Strasbourg during 11-14 March. The European Parliament’s decisions have an advisory character. In case the committee’s draft is endorsed by the European Parliament members, the issue of halted accession talks with Turkey will have to be discussed within the premises of the European Council. Comprised of the 28-heads of E.U. member states with the President of the Council and the President of the Commission, the European Council convenes and sets out the future direction of European foreign and security policy.

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