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News 25 Nov 16

Turkey Stands at Crossroads Over EU Path

An expert on EU-Turkey relations says Ankara faces a stark choice on whether to engage again with Brussels, or openly turn its back on EU and European values.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga. Photo: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/AP/Beta

Oznur Akcali Yilmaz, from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, told BIRN that Thursday’s vote in the European Parliament to freeze relations with Turkey should be read as a final attempt by the EU to hold Turkey within the European camp.

 “The EU has criticized Turkey for a long time as it defines the government’s actions against the alleged coup plotters and the opposition as ‘antidemocratic’. However, the EU’s only response for these actions was statements that the EU is highly ‘concerned’. It was obviously not enough,” she added.

Yilmaz also explained that while the MEPs’ decision is not binding, it has a great potential to harm and even wreck Turkey-EU relations.

“We should now discuss what Turkey will do. In first scenario, it will take this warning seriously and return to the negotiation table. In the second scenario, it will move away from the EU and European values,” she added.

“This second scenario will damage the EU, Turkey, cooperation on refuges and the EU’s normative power; Turkey is already starting to wink at the ‘Eurasia axis’ [Russia plus China] in its foreign policy,” she warned.

European Parliamentarians on November 24 called for a temporary halt to EU membership talks, citing Ankara's “disproportionate” reaction to the July 15 failed coup.

The vote is not binding but is an advisory decision for the European Council where EU foreign ministers are in charge.

Tension between the EU and Turkey has risen over the government’s massive crackdown against alleged coup plotters and against the opposition.

After the failed coup in July, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency.

It has since arrested more than 40,000 people who work in different sectors, from the army to the media. It has fired more than 100,000 people from work in public enterprises.

Omer Celik, Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs, said after the vote on Thursday that Ankara would take no notice of the MEPs’ decision.

“This decision is not serious for us since there is a significant lack of vision,” Celik concluded.

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