European Union foreign ministers on Nov. 14 criticized Turkey’s crackdown on alleged supporters of a failed military coup in July, but Austria’s call to suspend Ankara’s EU membership bid failed to garner enough backing.
During a meeting between the top diplomats in the Belgian capital city of Brussels, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cautioned against over-reaction to the ongoing developments in Turkey.
“We should not push Turkey into a corner. We should not overreact in a way that is against our collective interests,” he commented.
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini also said, “”It is important to keep the membership negotiations ongoing since it is the only way to influence Turkey.”
Soini, however, expressed concern over the recent remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning the possible restoration of the death penalty. Turkey annulled capital punishment in 2004 under reforms aimed at joining the European Union.
“Everybody understands that if it goes on like this, Turkey will not become a member of the EU. The death penalty is the absolute red line for the EU,” the Finnish foreign minister said.
The European Union foreign ministers’ comments came in response to Austria’s call to scupper EU membership talks with Turkey.
“I am not for the continuation of entry negotiations, and I believe that this Turkey does not have a place in the European Union,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Monday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with English-language newspaper, Hurriyet Daily News, on Sunday, Erdogan slammed the 28-member EU over “attempts to compel” Ankara drop its accession bid.
“The European Union is trying to compel us to withdraw from this (accession) process. If they don’t want us, they should be clear about this. They should make a decision. Our patience is not endless,” he said.
“If need be, later, we could also consult our people,” The Turkish president added, apparently making a reference to the United Kingdom’s June 23 advisory referendum to withdraw from the European Union – commonly known as Brexit.
Turkey has been trying to join the EU since the 1960s. The formal negotiations started in 2005. But the process has been mired in problems, and only 16 chapters of the 35-chapter accession procedure have been opened for Ankara so far.
Relations between Ankara and the EU have further soured following the July 15 botched putsch, which Ankara government claims to have been organized by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured in the violence, which Gulen has strongly condemned and denied any involvement in. Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown.
International rights groups argue that Ankara’s crackdown has gone far beyond the so-called Gulenists and targeted Kurds as well as government critics.