Freezing Turkey-EU talks will benefit no one

Freezing Turkey-EU talks will benefit no one

The European Parliament will vote on a resolution on Thursday that suggests temporarily freezing Turkey’s accession talks in the light of an increase in the violations of human rights and the deterioration in the use of fundamental freedoms in the aftermath of July 15 coup attempt. The EP’s Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, clearly stated the mood of European lawmakers in a comprehensive interview with daily Hürriyet’s Cansu Çamlıbel on Nov. 21.  

“Week after week things have been going in a worse direction... Turkey is declining in all of the rule of law indexes and freedom of media indexes … Until we see a reversal of this decline it is not credible to talk about opening new chapters or taking new initiatives,” Piri said, calling for cutting only accession talks and not the whole dialogue. 

It’s pretty sure that the parliament will vote in favor of freezing talks but it requires the EU council’s unanimous decision before going into effect. It’s therefore not going to be easy for the parliament to convince all governments to support their point. 

However, the lawmakers’ vote will sure have serious consequences. It will constitute a first in enlargement history in which the parliament will call on the EU to suspend talks with a candidate country, demonstrating the poor prospect of a potential Turkish membership in the union for the foreseeable future. 

Second, it will also lay bare the real intention of political parties across Europe and how they differ with their respective governments when it comes to giving a decision on Turkey’s continued accession process. This should be seen as a very significant move when considering that prominent European countries will go to elections in 2017 when populist political movements will likely prevail. 

Third, it could turn into a death blow for the negotiations on the implementation of the readmission agreement in return for the granting of visa liberalization to Turkish nationals. More worrying, it could also result in the entire migrant collapsing – a development that could irreparably damage Ankara-Brussels dialogue. 

It’s true that things are not going in the right direction in Turkey, and those who read this column are quite aware of the critical situation in terms of the deterioration of democratic norms, fundamental freedoms, human rights and the rule of law. These are key criteria for a country aspiring to be among the respected nations in the world, if not a member of the EU.   

However, the EU, the European Parliament and other European institutions should also engage in some self-criticism over the double standards they have been imposing on Turkey since full membership talks began in 2005. Or they should better inquire into their too-weak and too-late response to the July 15 coup attempt, which caused deep frustration in Turkey, even among pro-EU circles. Forgetting all these and focusing on just one aspect of this issue would be a very big mistake. 

European lawmakers should give a chance to the efforts of the Council of Europe which preferred to engage with Turkey in the aftermath of July 15 while all European institutions opted to criticize the Turkish government. 

At this stage, the vote of European parliamentarians to freeze talks will have no leverage whatsoever on Turkey, except for further fueling populist, discriminatory and radical political moves in Europe.