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    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan poses with children during a ceremony to mark the National Sovereignty and Children's Day at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, April 23, 2017.

    EU Chief Calls for Reset in EU-Turkey Relations Following Referendum

    © REUTERS / Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace
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    The EU Commissioner for enlargement Johannes Hahn has called for the EU to reset its relationship with Turkey amid growing criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing grip on power and threats to bring back the death penalty.

    Turkey voted in a referendum, April 16, to abolish the role of prime minister and replace the parliamentary system with an executive presidency in a move that critics have condemned as a power grab by Erdogan. 

    The vote — passed by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent — drew criticism from politicians in the EU, who called for the talks over Turkish accession into the EU to be halted. However, Hahn has signaled a softening of the EU's line, by suggesting alternative methods of cooperation should be examined.

    "The current situation is not sustainable, neither for them nor for us. We should say OK, let's clean the table of everything we had and look at what could be the future kind of cooperation. Elements from things which have already existed might be taken on board", Hahn said.

    The talks over Turkish accession into the EU date back to its first application to become a member in 1987, but have been hampered by countless difficulties — not least the Cyprus issue, dating back to 1974 when Turkey invaded the island following the Cypriot coup d'etat.

    Migrant Deal Collapse?

    However, relations between the EU and Turkey have deteriorated since the signing of the EU-Turkey migrant deal, which was supposed to stem the flow of migrants traveling through Turkey and into Europe.

    ​Contingent on the deal was the acceleration of Turkey accession into the EU and visa-free access for Turkish citizens into the EU, both of which have collapsed amid growing criticism of Erdogan's increasing grip on power.

    The Turkish president has clamped down on opposition — particularly following the failed military coup, July 2016 — as well as the media, including foreign journalists working in Turkey. Italy has called for the release of Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande and Germany is demanding the release of Deniz Yucel, a German-Turkish journalist working for Die Welt newspaper. 

    But relations between the EU and Turkey took a further turn for the worse when Erdogan announced he was considering reintroducing capital punishment, reversing his party's decision to abolish it in 2004.

    However, Hahn's intervention suggests that Brussels could be looking at finding a new relationship with Ankara, finding ways to cooperate with Turkey on some issues while not on others and finding a new relationship other than EU membership.


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    EU-Turkey migrant deal, EU-accession, EU membership, freedom of speech, human rights, death penalty, Turkish referendum, coup attempt in Turkey, European Commission, European Union, Johannes Hahn, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Europe, Turkey
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