European Parliament votes to halt Turkey accession talks

Ankara still wants to join the European Union but the bloc is confused and this needs to be fixed, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says. He adds the vote has no value for Turkey and does not represent the views of higher EU bodies.

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

European Parliament votes for suspending EU accession talks with Turkey if popular constitutional changes are implemented on July 7, 2017

Updated Jul 7, 2017

The European Parliament has voted in favour of suspending accession talks with the EU if Turkey goes ahead and implements constitutional changes approved in a referendum earlier this year.

Lawmakers in Strasburg voted by 477 votes to 64 in favour of calling on member states to formally suspend the accession negotiations.

Almost 100 lawmakers abstained in the vote, which is non-binding.

Reacting to the vote, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Thursday that Ankara still wants to join the European Union but the bloc is confused and this needs to be fixed.

Speaking to reporters in Ankara, Yildirim said the parliament's decision had no value for Turkey and that it did not represent the views of higher European Union bodies. 

Earlier, Turkey's EU minister Omer Celik said that the vote was “irrelevant and to be declared null and void.”

“We are calling European Parliament to respect the result of the referendum,” he said. He said he was of the opinion that the report was “not crafted objectively” and therefore had no value.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftugolu separately said the decision was based on false claims and allegations, and undermined the European Parliament's reputation.

In April this year, voters voted by 51 percent in favour of 18 key amendments to the country’s constitution that would see it move from a parliamentary system to a presidential system.

EU Minister Omer Celik, speaking earlier in Ankara during a news conference with Johannes Hahn, the EU's enlargement official said: "The backbone of the relationship between Turkey and the EU are accession negotiations."

Celik – stressing Turkey’s official commitment to EU membership – said any proposal which fell short of accession negotiations would be against the nature of the relationship that Turkey and the EU have had up to now.

Critics of the constitutional amendments have claimed that they give Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan far too much power and breach the Copenhagen criteria that define whether a country is eligible to join the European Union.

The criteria require that a state has the institutions to preserve democratic governance and human rights, has a functioning market economy, and accepts the obligations and intent of the EU.

Turkey maintains that it meets the criteria more than many EU member states.

EU accession talks began in 2005. To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

Most of these have been achieved, but negotiations, however, hit a stalemate in 2007 because of Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue. German and French governments have also opposed the country’s full EU membership.