MEPs on Thursday backed a report calling for EU membership talks to be suspended with Turkey if the country implements planned changes to its constitution.
The vote in Strasbourg drew a stinging rebuke from the Turkish government, who said it would not be bullied by the European Parliament.
“This cannot be even in question. We are rejecting all kinds of proposal to drop accession talks between Turkey and EU in favour of strong cooperation in the areas of terror, immigration and other subjects,” said Omer Celik, the Turkish EU affairs minister.
Speaking during a visit to Ankara, EU commissioner Johannes Hahn said the Turkish government must respect the rule of law.
But experts cautioned that a tougher stance against Turkey could become the norm if it continues what critics see as a drift to authoritarianism.
“More and more Turkey will hear this kind of criticisms coming from the EU and Turkey will have to face more and more this type of pressure. In other words, formal suspension of negotiations will in alternative on the table,” said Seda Gürkan of the Free University of Brussels.
An April referendum approved changes that give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more power over the judiciary and parliament.
Human Rights Watch said in January that proposals posed “a huge threat to human rights, the rule of law, and the country’s democratic future.”