(GPA) Strasbourg – The European Parliament held a symbolic vote on Thursday that called to freeze the process of accession of Turkey in to the European Union (EU). The vote is not binding but may be a good survey of EU member states’ feelings on continuing the negotiations.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum – including socialist parties, the Green Party and conservative parties – all came together to voice their opposition to continuing talks about Turkey gaining EU membership. The vote is symbolic but is a good barometer of feelings that may influence how the meeting of the European Council plays out next month. If this is a popular opinion across Europe’s nations and political spectrum then it could mean the death of talks with Turkey about membership.
The MEPs all voted in favor of stopping the talks due to the increasingly authoritarian behavior of President Recep Erdogan following a failed coup attempt in July. The day prior to the vote, the Turkish government had a new round of persecutions which ended with 15,000 more government employees being fired bringing the total number of people arrested or fired somewhere around 125,000. The European Commission has already warned Erdogan to stop the crackdowns in a report earlier this month that found the Turkish authorities were violating rights guaranteed by the EU charter. This includes the jailing of opponents, firing government employees that are “disloyal” to Erdgoan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the closure of over 100 media outlets considered too critical of the regime.
The MEPs who voted to exclude Turkey from the EU are hoping that this referendum will convince the EU leaders to finally go through on their threat of suspending accession talks in response to Turkish brutality. Kati Piri, a Dutch MEP from the Socialist Party, felt this was enough of a show of cross-country and cross-party unity that “It sends a strong political signal from the parliament to EU leaders who will be meeting in mid-December that if they take European values seriously — and all this is happening in a candidate country — then it’s time to draw a red line.”
Turkey has had long enough to comply with a the membership requirements from the European Union since they started talks on joining the union in 2005. When the talks started, there were 35 policy areas – known as chapters – that the Turks needed to agree to in order to cement their membership; they’ve only managed to agree with one of the 35 in the past eleven years.
Turkey seems to be aware that the feelings of goodwill from the west are faltering since they’ve been started to consider moving away from the valuable European consumers to discuss possibly opening trade with eastern markets, led by Russia and China. Not only are they seeming to move away from the business side of western relations but the rogue NATO member has also discussed possibly making deals to acquire new weapons systems from Russia instead of countries like The UK and United States. Erdogan also continues to use proposed migration controls as a weapon against the EU by continually threatening that he could scrap any border control proposals if he doesn’t get his way.
The Turkish government understands that this vote doesn’t change anything yet but they are still angered, as always. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has already come out warning members of the European Council to resist the people of Europe’s will via the MEPs saying “We expect EU leaders to stand up against this lack of vision.” The only people seemingly still in favor of the deal are Turkey’s government (who stands to gain three billion Euros to deal with refugees immediately) and the neo-liberal European leaders such as the former Swedish PM Carl Bildt who told the MEPs that “a populist short-term rather than strategic long-term approach” would be damaging.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.