The European Commission’s first vice president, Frans Timmermans, has called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to respect the results of local elections that saw his ruling party lose control of Ankara and İstanbul, the Politico news website reported.
“Turkey has been moving away from European values at great speed in recent years. We hope this will not be made worse by the fact that the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP doesn’t respect the election results,” the Dutch commission official told Welt Am Sonntag in an interview published Saturday.
In local elections last Sunday, Erdoğan’s conservative AKP lost control of several key cities including Ankara, the capital, and the country’s largest city, İstanbul. The party said soon after the vote that it would contest the results, lodging appeals for elections in a number of cities, provincial capitals and districts.
Parties have the right to call for election results to be checked if they have legitimate doubts, Timmermans told the German newspaper. “But it is important that the Turkish authorities can independently verify the election results and that the AKP finally recognizes the results,” he said. “That is what we expect, because that is democracy.”
By voting for parties that support embracing European values, the country’s citizens have sent the government a clear signal, Timmermans said. “Erdoğan must acknowledge that and try to bring his policies closer to European values.”
Breaking off talks with Turkey over its accession to the EU would be a mistake and a “disappointment” to pro-European forces in the country, Timmermans, who is the center-left Party of European Socialists’ pick for commission president in the European election in May, also told the paper.
“I know Turkey is light years away from the EU. But locking the door now and locking it completely by breaking off accession negotiations is not in the interests of the European Union,” he said.
On Sunday Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a written statement over Timmermans remarks.
“Waiting for the results of the objections and applications made before the District, Provincial and Supreme Election Committee is a requirement of respect for the law,” the statement reads.
“While Turkey is determined to pursue reforms, the EU authorities’ arbitrary and hasty statements, which were made without respect to the legal process, are most unfortunate,” it added.