The European Union adopted a non-binding resolution Wednesday against Turkey’s accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament by 370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions.
The assembly noted past and ongoing human, civil, and due process rights violations committed by Turkey. The body expressed concern over Turkey’s lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentioned the state’s “shrinking space for civil society,” its arrests and suppression of journalists, its dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of Middle Eastern migrants within its borders. The body noted that Turkey’s government has abused the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of terrorism suspicions. It has also intimidated its own citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey.
The European Parliament also mentioned Turkey’s fractious relationships with neighboring states such as Cyprus and Greece regarding the Akkuyu nuclear plant Turkey intends to build, as well as (lack of) normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia.
“[W]hereas respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression and the media, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest, the fight against corruption and the fight against racism and discrimination against vulnerable groups are at the core of the negotiation process.” (regarding Turkey’s accession into the European Union.)
The EU body insists the relationship between EU and Turkey be based on the laws adopted by the EU member states, with the “objective of protecting and promoting democratic values and principles, human rights and the rule of law; without prejudice to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union.” Article 49 requires EU member states to abide by its values. Most importantly, it is the EU’s position that Turkey cannot continue ascension processes into the EU without proper “respect for democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.”
The resolution upholds a suggestion by the EU Parliament’s foreign-affairs committee saying the bloc should “formally suspend” the entry negotiations with Turkey. The 751-seat assembly rejected floor amendments by right-of-center members who had sought to toughen the recommendation by urging the EU to “terminate” or “formally end” the process.
The symbolic gesture by the 28-nation Parliament — part of a regular report on EU-Turkey relations — echoes calls by the assembly in past years and highlights its ability to act as a barometer of public opinion in Europe amid a rise of nationalist political forces.
Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, which began in 2005, have long been stalled. The government slammed the European Parliament’s appeal ahead of March 31 Turkish local elections as disrespectful at a time when it said Turkey was working to put Turkey-EU relations back on track and restart the reform process to join the bloc, according to a Foreign Ministry statement late Wednesday.
“The membership to the EU is a strategic objective for Turkey,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement, urging the European Parliament to support visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, in return for Turkey’s efforts to stem a flow of refugees to Europe, and update the Customs Union to increase its economic integration in the bloc.