[VIDEO] MEPs criticize rights violations in Turkey as EP resolution suggests freezing accession talks

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Rebecca Harms (R), Kati Piri

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have strongly criticized the Turkish government for its systematic violation of human rights and persecution of the opposition as the European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday suggesting a freeze of European Union membership negotiations with Turkey if Ankara implements a constitutional overhaul, backed by a referendum in April.

In a statement to the press on Thursday, Rebecca Harms, member of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, said: “The European Union must use all its possibilities and stand against the political persecution of opposition figures and journalists.”

Underlining that criticizing the government, being part of opposition and journalism, are not crimes, Harms added that “the affiliation or proximity to the Gülen movement is not a crime either.”

According to Harms, the EU and the Council of Europe have the duty to insist on legal processes in Turkey based on the rule of law while the Turkish government and judiciary must properly investigate the coup attempt.

The collective persecution in Turkey and the procedures in the trial show that the rule of law is no longer valid in Turkey. Therefore, today we are calling on the EU and its Member States not to follow up on Turkish extradition requests solely based on links to the Gülen movement. And we are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to finally accept the complaints from Turkish citizens, to pass a judgment and not to refer them back to the Turkish judiciary,” she said.

Meanwhile, Turkey rapporteur for the EP and Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group MEP Kati Piri also said in a video released by the S&P on Thursday that the accession talks with Turkey must be ended if it insists on implementing new legislation passed in an April 16 referendum.

“It is clear that co-operation is needed with Turkey, but if the new constitution is implemented in a way that runs contrary to EU democratic standards, accession talks with the current Turkish government must be ended. The EU’s financial assistance, which is now directed to Ankara, should then be made available to directly support Turkish civil society – the people who believe in the EU as an anchor for reforms in their country,” she said.

Piri underlined that the EU must stand in solidarity with the millions of people in Turkey who believe in European values and added, “The EU cannot remain silent over Ankara’s consistent and serious breaches of fundamental rights.”

Also criticizing the European Commission and EU leaders for their strategy of waiting silently for things to improve in Turkey, Piri said: “This is not just feeding President Erdoğan’s authoritarianism.”

It also fuels Euroscepticism among the European population and sends the wrong signal to the other candidate countries in the Western Balkans. Waiting, pretending and looking away is not a smart policy. The European Parliament expects the EU to stand up for its own values,” she added.

The EP decision on Thursday was grounded on the incompatibility of the reform package with the principle of separation of powers and the Copenhagen criteria.

A total of 638 out of 751 MEPs attended the vote, with 477 voting in favor of the resolution, while 64 rejected it and 94 abstained.

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