Introduction of death penalty in Turkey will break off EU negotiations: European Commission head
BRUSSELS/BERLINThe introduction of the death penalty in Turkey would mean breaking off accession negotiations with the European Union, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said.
“If Turkey were to reintroduce the death penalty, that would be tantamount to breaking off negotiations,” he told German daily Bild am Sonntag on March 19 regarding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments at a March 18 rally, where he said he would restore the capital punishment.
Juncker also commented on the latest row between Turkey and the Netherlands and Germany over the European countries’ decision to ban Turkish ministers from holding meetings for the April 16 referendum, which will decide whether to change the government system into an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers for the president or to protect the current parliamentary system.
Criticizing Erdoğan’s reaction to German and Dutch authorities restricting the campaigning activities of Turkish officials in their countries, Juncker said it was “totally unacceptable” for Erdoğan to liken their reactions to the Nazis.
The millions of Turks living in the EU, however, are well-integrated and contribute to Europe’s property, he said, adding that “not all Turks are little Erdoğans.”
Juncker denied that the agreement with Turkey to send funding in return of helping stem the inflow of refugees into the bloc had exposed the EU to blackmail, saying he was convinced Ankara would not revoke it because “it is not in Turkey’s interests to have smuggling rings and bandits in charge along its coast.”
The agreement has led to a 97 percent reduction in arrivals of refugees into Greece from Turkey in the 11 months since it was signed, he said.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, said Turkey has never been less likely to join the EU than now amid a nadir in relations between Ankara and Berlin.
“Today, Turkey is definitely further away from becoming a member of the EU than ever before,” Gabriel said in an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel published on March 18.
He added that he always had doubts about Turkey’s accession to the EU but found himself in the minority in his Social Democrat (SPD) party.
Before taking power in Germany in 2005, Chancellor Angela Merkel was an outspoken opponent of Turkey’s membership and instead called for a “privileged partnership.” Gabriel disliked the idea because he thought it would make Turks feel like second-class Europeans, but he said his opinion had changed since Britons voted to leave the EU.
“Today the situation is totally different due to Brexit. We’d be well advised to bring about a ‘special relationship’ with Great Britain after its exit from the EU. That will be an important learning process for the EU and perhaps some of it can serve as a blueprint for other countries in the long term,” Gabriel said.
Turkey received fury from Germany and the Netherlands by describing the bans on planned rallies by Turkish ministers as “fascist.” The arrest of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel in Istanbul mounted Berlin’s anger.
Gabriel said Erdoğan was “taking advantage of a sentiment many people of Turkish origin have in Germany that they are neither accepted nor welcomed.”
He said Germany should avoid reacting in kind to “provocations from Turkey” because that would only aid Erdoğan, “who needs a bogeyman for his campaign.”
He also warned Turkish politicians that they could be banned from holding rallies in Germany if they do not adhere to German laws. “Whoever crosses these lines cannot expect to be allowed to propagate his political ideas here,” he said.