The European Parliament’s decision to call on the European Commission to freeze accession talks with Turkey is important as it marks a first in the overall enlargement process of the bloc but is unlikely to be implemented due to a complex procedure. When Turkey and the European Union agreed on starting full membership talks in 2005, they also adopted a framework to regulate the technicalities of the Ankara-Brussels negotiations.
“In the case of a serious and persistent breach in Turkey of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the union is founded, the commission will, on its own initiative or on the request of one third of the member states, recommend the suspension of negotiations,” Article 5 of the agreement states.
“The council will decide by qualified majority on such a recommendation, after having heard Turkey, whether to suspend the negotiations and on the conditions for their resumption. The member states will act in the intergovernmental conference in accordance with the council decision, without prejudice to the general requirement for unanimity in the intergovernmental conference. The European Parliament will be informed,” it states.
Thus, the decision taken by the parliamentarians is legally non-binding and will have no immediate impact on the commission and the European Council as all member countries except for Austria have announced their support for the continuation of talks. The European Council will meet on Dec. 15 and 16 in Brussels.
Although non-binding, the EP’s move is important as it is the first time that European parliamentarians voted to freeze the accession process of a candidate country in the enlargement history of the European Union. All political groups represented at the Parliament supported the resolution, in an indication that even traditional supporters of a potential Turkish accession to the bloc have voted along with Turkey-skeptics.
Another important aspect of the decision is the fact that this negative mood at the EP will also have a reflection on a potential vote to provide Turkish nationals with visa-free access to the Schengen Zone, which is to be implemented simultaneously with a readmission agreement on migrants.