Europe

Euro MPs vote to freeze Turkey EU membership talks

Leaders (from L) Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, European Council President Donald Tusk (C) and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R), March 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Opposition has grown in the EU to the prospect of Turkey joining the bloc

The European Parliament has voted to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks because of the Turkish government's crackdown since a coup attempt in July.

The MEPs' non-binding vote has already been dismissed as "worthless" by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The MEPs asked the European Commission and 28 national governments to impose a "temporary freeze" on the talks.

EU-Turkish ties have soured after years of stop-start negotiations, which are likely to go on, albeit very slowly.

Turkey's EU accession talks began in 2005, but only one of the 35 policy areas - called "chapters" - has been closed. A country is only ready to join the EU when it has met the criteria in all 35 chapters.

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MEPs say Thursday's non-binding resolution aims to send a political message to President Erdogan. But it will fall on deaf ears, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Istanbul.

The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of MEPs, with 479 votes in favour and 37 against, with 107 abstentions.

After the coup attempt by mutinous Turkish military officers Mr Erdogan accused the EU of siding with "terrorism" rather than supporting his country.

Strategic ally

MEPs are concerned about his crackdown on opponents. About 120,000 Turks have been dismissed or suspended from their public sector jobs, 40,000 arrested, scores of journalists rounded up and opposition pro-Kurdish MPs detained.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A pro-Erdogan rally: Turkey's ruling AKP has its roots in political Islam

But Turkey is a key player in Europe's efforts to curb the influx of non-EU migrants and in containing the threat from Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the vote would not yield positive results and urged engagement with Turkey.

The fear is that an increasingly anti-Western Mr Erdogan could jettison the EU-Turkey deal, struck in March, to stem the migrant flow to Europe.

European leaders are unlikely to adhere to the MEPs' vote, our correspondent says. But, he adds, for now nobody expects that Turkey's decades-long dream of EU accession will become a reality.

The MEPs' resolution said Turkey should remain "anchored" to the EU, and they pledged to review their position once the "disproportionate repressive measures" in Turkey were lifted.

"Turkey is an important partner of the EU," they said. "But in partnerships, the will to co-operate has to be two-sided... Turkey is not showing this political will as the government's actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path."

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