Politico – 6 September 2017, Wednesday
By Jacopo Barigazzi and Giulia Parvicini
The European Union should end Turkey’s membership talks on only one condition: if Ankara brings back the death penalty, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said Wednesday.
“It’s very difficult today for Turkey to get into the European Union, but we cannot close the chapter,” Tajani told POLITICO during an interview in his office. “But we need to send clear messages: the death penalty is not acceptable for us” and if Ankara decided to reintroduce it, then there’s “every chance” dialogue would be closed.
The former European commissioner said there were a number of problems with Turkey, including its stance on “personal freedom and freedom of opinion. It’s unacceptable that there are journalists in jail,” Tajani said, adding that he has raised these issues with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In March 2015, the EU signed a deal with Turkey to take back refugees crossing into Europe in exchange for breathing fresh life into long-stalled EU membership talks. But tensions with Ankara have increased since an attempted coup last summer and Erdoğan’s subsequent crackdown on opponents. The sweeping new powers that Erdoğan gained after a close-run referendum in April have made matter worse for some EU countries.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “Turkey should not become an EU member,” a line shared by her rival for the German chancellorship Martin Schulz and by the Austrian government.
Merkel said during an election TV debate that she doesn’t “see a mandate to expand the customs union [deal with Turkey] under the current circumstances.” An upgrade of the customs union agreement was one of the main points in the 2015 deal.
Tajani, who when elected president of the European Parliament said he wanted to be “a good spokesperson” for the assembly, took a different line from fellow MEPs. In June, the Parliament called for Turkey’s accession talks to be suspended if Ankara implemented plans to expand Erdoğan’s powers.
When it comes to Turkey, Tajani said, “the dialogue must be open because we have the problem of migration, of the fight against terrorism, we need to keep on talking and push Turkey to change its line.”
As for an upgrade of the customs union deal, “it depends on how the situation evolves … if there’s a negative or a positive evolution.”