On Monday (July 18), the EU warned Turkey that relations would be affected if the rule of law was not respected in the wake of last week's failed coup. Since the failed coup, the authorities have rounded up around 8,000 members of the armed services, the judiciary and others.
Erdogan told crowds of supporters gathered outside his residence in Istanbul, July 17, that parliament must consider the public demand for the death penalty to be applied in the case of the coup plotters.The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004 to bring its legislation in line with the EU standards, ahead of its accession into the EU.
Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations told MEPs: "It is quite clear that the introduction of the death penalty would be a reason for exclusion as a potential member of the European Union."
The issue is crucial because the EU is negotiating a deal with Turkey over migrants, under which "irregular migrants" — those refused asylum in Greece — are relocated to Turkey, which is being paid US$6.6 billion over two years to improve refugee camps. The deal is intended to stem the flow of migrants making their way into Europe.
As part of the deal, Turkish citizens would be allowed visa-free access the Schengen zone of Europe and Turkey's accession into the EU would be speeded up. However, recent events following the failed coup have led many MEPs to suggest Turkey is now in breach of many EU principles.
"This attempted coup has been condemned. Further developments do give us cause for concern. There have been about 8,000 arrests from the army and about 12,000 members of the justice system have either been suspended or excluded, but also some people from the executive. Twenty percent of judges have either been suspended or replaced and that will have a direct impact on judicial rulings," Hahn told MEPs.
Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament, said: "President Erdogan clearly is abusing the coup to prosecute his political opponents. It is a good thing that Turkey escaped a new military dictatorship, but only if democracy is being maintained.
"What we see now is a further crackdown by the AKP on the freedom of the press, on the independence of the judiciary and on the rule of law. This will deteriorate the EU-Turkey relationship. The reintroduction of the death penalty is an absolute red line that should not be crossed," Verhofstadt said.