BY DAILY SABAH
ANKARA EU AFFAIRS APR 23, 2021
Turkey’s European Union candidacy should be formally suspended if Ankara continues on its “autocratic track,” EU lawmakers stated Friday in tough criticism. According to them, a decision is urgent because they perceive basic freedoms in the country are being curtailed.
Deputies in the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee voted 49 in favor, four against and with 14 abstentions on their report on Turkey’s EU candidacy, which now goes to the full plenary next month and, if accepted, becomes the Parliament’s official position.
After years of stalling on Turkey’s bid to join the world’s biggest trading bloc, negotiations launched in 2005 have come to a halt, although they are not officially suspended.
Turkey’s hydrocarbon exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean has also angered EU leaders.
“This report is probably the toughest ever in its criticism towards the situation in Turkey,” said Nacho Sanchez, a center-left Spanish EU lawmaker who led parliamentary discussions.
“It reflects all that has unfortunately happened in the country in the last two years, in particular in the fields of human rights and rule of law,” he said.
In President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s early days as prime minister in 2003, Turkey’s EU candidacy gathered pace as his government brought stability, attracted foreign investment and outlawed the death penalty in 2004, a central demand of EU foreign policy.
However, EU officials and diplomats now say that Turkey no longer meets the democratic criteria to be considered a candidate, let alone a full member, for the EU, a club of democratic countries that aim to coordinate policy focused on human rights.
In the Foreign Affairs Committee report, the EU deputies said the formal suspension of EU membership talks should take place, followed by a review, in order to consider other ways to maintain close ties with Turkey.
The EU lawmakers’ vote took place Thursday and the results were announced Friday.
Turkey-EU relations are marked by disputes on several issues, including tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s role in Syria, the migrant crisis and the stalemate in Turkey’s accession process to join the bloc. During a meeting in Brussels on Dec. 10, EU leaders decided to draw up a list of Turkish targets to sanction. But since then, the rhetoric on all sides has mellowed dramatically as Turkey and the bloc voiced their intent to “turn a new page.”
Turkey has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor in 1964, the European Economic Community (EEC), which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates.