20:37 GMT23 September 2020
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    European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has cast doubt over the likely accession into the EU of Turkey in the light of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plans to reintroduce the death penalty by another referendum if parliament rejects his proposal to bring it back.

    Turkey's accession into the EU was accelerated as part of the EU-Turkey migrant deal, whereby the EU agreed to pay Turkey US$3.3 billion in aid for refugees if "irregular migrants" — those denied or refusing asylum in Greece — were returned to camps in Turkey in an effort to stem the flow of refugees crossing into Europe.

    However, the deal has faltered ever since Erdogan imposed a crackdown on the media and opposition forces — especially following the failed coup in July 2016. Relations between the EU and Ankara worsened after Erdogan threatened to reintroduce the death penalty.

    Juncker told the German newspaper Rheinischen Post, May 8, the move "would be the reddest of all red lines."

    Talks Halted

    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.

    The leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group Guy Verhofstadt called on the European Council and Commission to stop accession talks and open the path to a new association agreement with Ankara. 

    "Turkish accession is not realistic any more. Therefore, we must find a way to live with Turkey, cooperate with the government and engage with the Turkish people. It is time the Council and Commission stop the accession talks and open the path to a new association agreement.

    "At the same time, with view to the 48 percent who voted against abolishing of Turkish parliamentary democracy, we must insist that this new relationship, and in particular the upgraded customs union, is only possible if Turkey fulfils its obligations as a Member of Council of Europe," said Verhofstadt.

    MEP Alexander Lambsdorff, Vice-President of the European Parliament on Human Rights and Democracy and ALDE shadow rapporteur on Turkey, said: "Turkey does not fulfil the Copenhagen criteria any more that are key for opening the path towards EU accession.

    "We cannot afford to carry on with a process that has lost its credibility on both sides. A new association agreement, on the other hand, will provide the EU with additional leverage as Turkey has real interests in deepening economic cooperation and introducing visa liberalization," he said.


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    EU-Turkey migrant deal, media freedom, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, EU membership, freedom of speech, death penalty, Turkish referendum, coup attempt in Turkey, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), European Union, Guy Verhofstadt, Juncker, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Europe, Turkey, Ankara, Brussels
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