- Title: European lawmakers call for aborting Turkey membership talks
- Date: 22nd November 2016
- Summary: STRASBOURG, FRANCE (NOVEMBER 22, 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT FLAGS OF EU AND EU MEMBER STATES
- Embargoed: 7th December 2016 16:32
- Keywords: EU Turkey Parliament Weber Pitella Erdogan
- Location: STRASBOURG, FRANCE
- City: STRASBOURG, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: European Union,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00159J2LHJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Leading European lawmakers on Tuesday (November 22) urged a halt to membership talks with Turkey over its post-coup purges.
Erdogan, exasperated with the EU's intensified criticism of his rights record, has said the bloc would have to "live with the consequences" should it stop the talks and that Ankara could instead join a security alliance run by Russia and China.
Manfred Weber, the head of the largest faction in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People's Party, called for a suspension to the current accession negotiation.
"I'd be in favour of acting cleverly, of acting cleverly and considerately, given the heated mood we have in Turkey. That means sending a signal that mean halting the current talks. But we should also not spiral out into who can think of harsher punishments for Turkey. We should act cleverly, send the message of halting talks and then try in continuing dialogue with Turkey, to keep Turkey on the side of the European Union," Weber said.
He was echoed by Gianni Pitella, the leader of the socialist group, the parliament's second biggest.
"Turkey under Erdogan is more and more drifting towards an authoritarian regime," he said.
Pitella called on the Turkish president to maintain the rule of law in Turkey, warning it was a key condition for the country to join the 28-member bloc.
"Our political message to Erdogan is that democracy, rule of law, press freedom and minorities' rights are not negotiable if you want to be part of the EU. We want to keep Turkey anchored to Europe. The door of dialogue with Turkish citizens and Ankara will always be open, but the door of membership is at risk of being closed, at least as long as Turkey does not return to fully respect democracy and the rule of law," he said.
More than 110,000 people in Turkey - including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders - were suspended or dismissed over their alleged backing for the plotters of a failed military coup in July.
Some 36,000 were arrested and media outlets have been shut.
This has taken the EU aback, annulling a period of warmer tone between Turkey and the bloc, which had promised as recently as last March to speed up Ankara's accession talks in exchange for its help in keeping migrants away from European shores.
This cooperation, critical for the EU, is still going on but some in the EU worry it could eventually fall victim to the spiralling recriminations.
Erdogan, who blames the EU for not showing enough understanding for the gravity of the situation in Turkey, said he could put the EU talks to a national referendum next year.
Turkey still hopes to win visa-free travel to the EU but earlier promises of granting the privilege to Ankara by the end of the year now seem as distant as ever.
Austria and Luxembourg have led calls to stop Turkey's membership talks, which have only made very limited progress over 11 years in any case.
But Germany, France and most of the other EU states for now back continued engagement and fear putting at risk Turkey's collaboration on migration.
All stress, however, that the talks would come to an end should Turkey reinstate the death penalty.
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