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European Parliament formally asks to freeze Turkey’s EU accession talks, sparking anger in Ankara

European Parliament formally asks to freeze Turkey’s EU accession talks, sparking anger in Ankara
The European Parliament has called on the EU to shut down Turkey membership talks, citing its crackdown on media and alleged human rights abuses. Ankara has slammed the vote as a “meaningless” show by the far-right.

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted in a non-binding resolution to call on EU member states to bar Turkey from joining the 28-member bloc for at least the near future. The resolution urges the EU to formally put Turkey’s long-stalled membership talks on hold. They were launched in 2005 but have been virtually non-existent since the failed 2016 coup, which resulted in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightening the screws on dissent at home.

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“The European Parliament remains seriously concerned about  Turkey’s poor track record in upholding human rights, the rule of law, media freedom and the fight against corruption, as well as its all-powerful presidential system,” the MEPs said in a statement after the resolution was adopted by 370 votes. It was rejected by 109 lawmakers, and 143 abstained from voting.

The motion was sponsored by the rapporteur for Turkey, MEP Kati Piri, who said that Ankara appears to be ignoring concerns repeatedly voiced by the bloc over its human rights record. Piri went on to accuse the Erdogan government of a power grab with recently-introduced amendments to the Turkish constitution.

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“I realize that stopping the accession talks is not a step which will help Turkey’s democrats. For that, the EU leaders must use all possible tools to exert more pressure on the Turkish government,” Piri said, urging the EU to redirect funds earmarked for Turkey to supporting civil society, human rights advocates and local journalists.

The move by the parliamentarians does not carry any legal consequences for Ankara, as it would take a majority of EU member states to put the talks on hold. While non-binding, the vote carries symbolic value, and has provoked a harsh rebuke from Ankara.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has denounced the vote as “meaningless” and grounded in prejudice.

“European Parliament’s stance against Turkey should be to promote ties, interaction and dialogue between Turkey and EU,” the foreign ministry said.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK) slammed the vote as a “disrespectful” decision that reflects the European Parliament’s “far-right ideological tendency.”

The vote on Wednesday drew on the 2018 Commission report on Turkey, compiled by Piri and adopted by the European Parliaments’ Committee for Foreign Affairs last month.

AK party spokesman Omar Celik accused proponents of the report and the MEPs of racism and cozying up to “terror supporters.”

Erdogan’s spokesman echoed the sentiment, describing the vote as “null and void.”

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