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EU parliament requests suspension of Turkey's accession talks

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By Sarah Taylor  with REUTERS
EU parliament requests suspension of Turkey's accession talks

The European Parliament has asked for talks on Turkey’s European Union accession to be suspended, if Ankara expands President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

The resolution passed by parliament “calls on the Commission and the member states, in accordance with the Negotiating Framework, to formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform package is implemented unchanged.”

In a referendum in April, Turkey voted in favour of a constitutional overhaul, which included granting the leader executive power and allowing him to stay in office until 2029. He says the expansion of his powers is necessary to ensuring stability in Turkey.

However, oppositions parties and human rights groups say the reforms threaten judicial independence and push the country towards one-man rule. A panel of legal experts from the Council of Europe, known as the Venice Commission, a rights body to which Turkey belongs, warned in March that the-then proposed constitutional shakeup was tantamount to a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy. Turkey rejected the assessment.

Ankara says it rejects proposals to drop its bid for EU membership in favour of cooperation in other areas. The parliament has limited influence on the matter.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim later said the country still wanted to join the EU, but the bloc was confused and this is something that needs to be fixed. Speaking to the press in Ankara, Yildirim said the parliament’s decision had no worth for Turkey, adding that it didn’t represent the views of higher European Union bodies.

EU leaders are treading a fine line in relations with Turkey. While some have been critical of Erdogan, in particular of his attitude towards his opponents, the bloc does not want to undermine an agreement on migrants, which was struck in 2016. The accord saw Turkey effectively stop migrants from reaching neighbouring Greece, which had been struggling to deal with an influx of people that had threatened EU unity.