EC president: Reinstatement of death penalty in Turkey will sever ties with Europe

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 30: President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev (not seen) attend a press conference after their meeting in Brussels, Belgium on March 30, 2016. AFP

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Sunday that reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey will halt negotiations with Ankara for its membership in the European Union.

Speaking during an interview with German Bild am Sonntag on the eve of next week’s celebrations to mark the European Union’s 60th anniversary, Junker reacted to remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promising the Turkish people during a speech on Saturday the reinstatement of capital punishment after an April 16 referendum that will switch Turkey to an executive presidency.

“If Turkey were to reintroduce the death penalty, that would be tantamount to breaking off negotiations,” Junker said.

Speaking during a Martyrs’ Memorial Day rally in Çanakkale province on Saturday to commemorate the Ottoman Empire’s victory in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, Erdoğan said: “I believe, God willing, that after the April 16 vote, Parliament will do the necessary thing concerning your demands for capital punishment. As for me, I will approve it without any hesitation.”

Junker also reacted to Erdoğan’s remarks likening European countries to the Nazis for canceling rallies by Turkish ministers in Europe and said it was “totally unacceptable.”

Underlining that there are millions of Turks living in the EU, Junker said they are well-integrated to contribute to Europe and added, “Not all Turks are little Erdoğans.”

On March 11, Dutch police closed off the road in front of the Turkish consulate residence in Rotterdam after Turkish Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya tried to deliver a speech there as part of the referendum campaign and expelled her from the Netherlands.

The Netherlands also canceled the flight clearance for Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s aircraft to land in Holland last Saturday.

Several European countries, including Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, canceled several programs by Turkish politicians who seek the support of Turkish expats for the referendum.

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