EU Parliament Says Turkey EU-Entry Talks Should Be Suspended

(Bloomberg) -- The European Parliament urged the EU to suspend membership negotiations with Turkey as a result of democratic backsliding in the country.

The European Union assembly made the appeal in a non-binding resolution approved on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France. The call is directed at EU governments and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, which together run the accession process with the Turkish government. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the call as “meaningless.”

The resolution upholds a suggestion by the EU Parliament’s foreign-affairs committee saying the bloc should “formally suspend” the entry negotiations with Turkey. The 751-seat assembly rejected floor amendments by right-of-center members who had sought to toughen the recommendation by urging the EU to “terminate” or “formally end” the process.

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The symbolic gesture by the 28-nation Parliament -- part of a regular report on EU-Turkey relations -- echoes calls by the assembly in past years and highlights its ability to act as a barometer of public opinion in Europe amid a rise of nationalist political forces.

Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, which began in 2005, have long been stalled. The government slammed the European Parliament’s appeal ahead of March 31 Turkish local elections as disrespectful at a time when it said Turkey was working to put Turkey-EU relations back on track and restart the reform process to join the bloc, according to a Foreign Ministry statement late Wednesday.

“The membership to the EU is a strategic objective for Turkey,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement, urging the European Parliament to support visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, in return for Turkey’s efforts to stem a flow of refugees to Europe, and update the Customs Union to increase its economic integration in the bloc.

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