Thursday 22 February 2018

European vote issues warning to Turkey on reforms

Turkey's President Erdogan. Photo: AP
Turkey's President Erdogan. Photo: AP

Ece Toksabay

The European Parliament called yesterday for Turkey's European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara fully implements plans to expand President Tayyip Erdogan's powers, in a vote which Turkey dismissed as flawed and wrong.

The parliament has limited influence on Turkey's decades-old pursuit of EU membership, now in limbo after bitter exchanges between Ankara and some European countries, but the decision highlighted the gulf between the two sides.

EU leaders have been critical of Mr Erdogan and his behaviour toward opponents, both before and after an abortive military coup against him last July.

A year-long crackdown and the sweeping new powers which Mr Erdogan won in a tightly fought referendum in April have raised concerns among Turkey's western allies.

Mr Erdogan says both the crackdown and the increased presidential powers are needed to help tackle serious challenges to Turkey's security, both at home and beyond its borders.

The resolution passed by parliament in Strasbourg "calls on the Commission and the member states ... to formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged".

Some constitutional changes approved in April have already been implemented - Mr Erdogan has been able to return to lead the ruling AK Party, and members of a top judicial body have been changed. Other steps, such as scrapping the post of prime minister, are due to take place within two years.

Opposition parties and human rights groups say the changes threaten judicial independence and push Turkey toward one-man rule. The EU has also expressed concern, although many in the European Parliament believe the bloc has not gone far enough.

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said Ankara regarded yesterday's vote in Strasbourg as invalid.

Irish Independent

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