Loud calls in Parliament for ending EU membership talks with Turkey
The fraying of ties comes at a particularly sensitive time for Brussels.
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN 11/22/16, 8:13 PM CET Updated 11/23/16, 6:15 AM CET
With relations between the EU and Turkey already deeply strained, a broad coalition of members of the European Parliament Tuesday called for ending EU membership talks with Ankara as punishment for a trampling of democratic freedoms and human rights by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following a failed coup attempt last July.
The fraying of ties comes at a particularly sensitive time for Brussels, with the EU relying on Turkey to keep up its end of an agreement on the return of migrants who have sought refuge in Europe.
While an unraveling of that deal could create acute political problems in capitals across the Continent, many members of Parliament called for ending the arrangement, saying Erdoğan was using it as a tool of “blackmail.” Leaders of the biggest factions in the Parliament also called for ending the discussions with Turkey about EU membership.
“Continuing the illusion of accession talks with a regime that becomes more and more authoritarian,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. “We are losing credibility.”
Syed Kamall, president of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said it was time for the EU to recognize reality. “The EU continues to pretend that it’s business as usual with Turkey,” Kamall said. “But we can all see the current relationship is not working.” He added: “Let us build a new relationship based not necessarily on EU membership but on cooperation.”
“It is surprising to see this threat now that Turkey will build alliances with Russia and China and play them off Europe — I think that doesn’t constitute respect” — Manfred Weber
Gianni Pittella, the leader of the Socialists and Democrats Group, said: “Even a group like the Socialists and Democrats Group which has always been, and is still, very much in favor of Turkish accession, we are in favor of freezing accession talks. Not interrupting them. We want these talks to be frozen to send a strong political signal to Erdoğan.”
With Parliament set to vote on a resolution on the Turkish issue on Thursday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, cautioned Parliament that ending the membership talks with Turkey would be a mistake.
“Foreign policy is about building win-win solutions,” Mogherini said in an opening statement at the start of Tuesday’s debate in Strasbourg. “If the accession process came to an end, I believe we would both find ourselves in a lose-lose scenario. Europe would lose an important channel for dialogue and leverage with Turkey. Turkey would lose a lot. And we would all lose an opportunity for greater friendship and cooperation among our peoples.”
Her message, however, did not seem particularly well-received.
Erdoğan has accused European leaders of condescension and on Sunday was quoted by Turkish media as saying that his country might be better served by joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a strategic alliance led by Russia and China, rather than the European Union.
The Shanghai group, however, does not offer anywhere near the potential economic benefits of EU membership. Nor would it provide the visa-free travel regime that is widely desired among the Turkish public.
As a result, Erdoğan’s comments met with little more than annoyance in the European Parliament.
“It is surprising to see this threat now that Turkey will build alliances with Russia and China and play them off Europe — I think that doesn’t constitute respect,” said Manfred Weber, head of the European People’s Party MEPs. “Turkey needs Europe and needs good relations,” Weber said. “There are 10 times more Turkish exports to Europe than there are to Russia and China put together.”
Martina Michels, a German MEP from the Group of the European United Left — Nordic Green Left, was among the speakers who called for ending the migrant deal with Turkey. Michels also accused the EU of not reacting strongly enough to the erosion of democracy in Turkey. “The Commission and Council were looking the other way,” Michels said.
David M. Herszenhorn
terça-feira, 22 de novembro de 2016
Britain can't pick and choose Brexit deal, MEPs say / Loud calls in Parliament for ending EU membership talks with Turkey
Britain can't pick and choose Brexit deal, MEPs say
By ALEKSANDRA ERIKSSON
BRUSSELS, 22. NOV, 20:53
The European Parliament will not accept an EU-UK deal that hurts the free flow of people within the EU single market, parliamentary leaders clearly stated after meeting with British Brexit minister David Davis on Tuesday (23 November).
"It is impossible to find a solution that would destroy the so-called four freedoms," said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal group and the parliament's coordinator on Brexit.
"The freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and of people are the basic element of the European Union. We will certainly never accept whatever development where these four freedoms are put at risk," he told journalists.
Meanwhile, another MEP questioned whether the Brits had grasped this message.
"Today in my talks with Mr Davis I didn’t hear anything new, rather the contrary," said Manfred Weber, leader of the parliament’s largest political group, centre-right EPP.
He said that instead of presenting an exit strategy, the British government insisted on what it wanted to keep from the EU, particularly access to the single market and home affairs and justice cooperation.
"They still don't know what Brexit means," Weber said. "That means leaving the European Union, that means cutting off relations - not cherry-picking, not special relationships."
David Davis, for his part, said that Tuesday's meetings had been "a good start".
Asked if the British government aimed to stay in the single market after leaving the EU, he said: "What we are after is an outcome which will be in the interest of the European Union and in the interest of Britain and will meet the requirements of the referendum."
It was the first time that Davis met with the parliament’s leaders since Britain voted to leave the EU in June.
They are bound to meet more regularly in the future.
Verhofstadt said Britain must finalise its divorce from the European Union before the next elections to the European Parliament in 2019, even if that left very little time.
The UK government plans to launch the exit talks before the end of March 2017, although the timing could be delayed by a legal challenge in the UK, requiring Britain’s parliament to be consulted, which the government has appealed.
The European Parliament, which is not directly involved in the negotiations but must consent to the resulting Brexit agreement, would submit its requests on the EU negotiating mandate in late March or early April, Verhofstadt said.
If EU leaders issue a final mandate by late April or May, the European Commission would have its position ready by the end of 2017.
The current legislative mandate runs out in May 2019.
"That only leaves a 14-15 months window," Verhofstadt said, noting that the parliament would need a couple months after the negotiations are concluded to provide its consent.
"It will be hectic," he added.