13 March 2019 European Parliament votes to freeze Turkey’s membership talks

During the 12 March Plenary session in Strasbourg, the members of the European Parliament (EP) voted 370 in favor and 109 against, with 143 abstentions, for formal suspension of EU accession negotiations with Turkey. MEPs expressed great concern about the shrinking space for civil society in the country, as a large number of activists, journalists, and human rights defenders are currently in jail. “Sitting in a cell for 17 months without knowing what you are being accused of, that is a reality in today’s Turkey,” Kati Piri, a Dutch centre-left EU lawmaker told the plenary. The parliament also called “for dedicated funds to be made available to support civil society, journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey.” MEPs believe that to keep Turkey economically anchored to the EU, an upgrade of the 1995 EU-Turkey Customs Union can be made, but only if there are concrete improvements in the field of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Turkish foreign ministry said it “expected the EP to take objective decisions and to adopt a constructive stance to contribute to Turkey’s EU accession process”, read Reuters’ article. EU governments have the final say in any suspension.