The assembly’s annual report on Turkey was backed by MEPs in a vote on Wednesday.
It says that relations with Ankara, including on the customs union, must be linked to “democratic conditionality” in the country and if the “negative trend” is not urgently reversed, accession negotiations should be suspended.
Despite the gloomy outlook, Sánchez Amor, an S&D deputy, told a press conference that the “door to Turkey must remain ajar.”
His report notes continued “backsliding” in three main areas including a deterioration in the rule of law and fundamental rights.
Turkey has been particularly condemned for its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, a global accord which aims to fight violence against women.
The report says EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated to such an extent that the EU needs to profoundly reassess them.
Sánchez Amor told reporters, “This report is the toughest yet in Parliament’s criticism of the situation in Turkey and reflects all that has unfortunately happened in the country in the last two years.”
He added, “We hope Turkey will definitively change course and put recent expressions of goodwill into concrete action. We urge the other EU institutions to make any positive agenda they might pursue with Turkey conditional upon democratic reform.”
“As Turkey is moving further away from its European path, I just don't see how we can proceed with the accession negotiations. If Turkey does not urgently change course, the Commission must formally suspend accession negotiations” Hilde Vautmans, Renew Europe
The report also denounces what it calls “illegal actions” against Member States, “aggressive anti-EU narrative” and “hostile” policy towards Greece and Cyprus, as well its involvement in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, “which consistently collides with the EU’s priorities.”
It urges Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide, “which would pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples.”
Sánchez Amor said Turkey still plays an important role as host to almost four million refugees, of which approximately 3.6 million are Syrian.
He said, “My report reflects the very worrying state of democracy and human rights in Turkey and the deterioration of the EU-Turkey relations. They have reached their lowest point in decades during the past months with Turkey’s hostile foreign policy towards some EU Member States.”
“The recent positive change of rhetoric is welcome, but not enough. We need facts that will prove the words.”
“Parliament clearly states its will to have the best relations possible with Turkey but for that we would need to see Turkey reverse its current autocratic drift, in which any kind of critical voice is quashed, and comply with its international commitments, including the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights and the Venice Commission’s recommendations.”
“A positive agenda can only be possible if steps are taken towards improving the situation of democracy.”
“The report sends clear messages to both Turkey and the other EU institutions and Member States: without urgent progress in human rights and the rule of law situation in Turkey, it will not be possible to improve and advance in EU-Turkey relations. This includes the customs union.”
“We hope Turkey will definitively change course and put recent expressions of goodwill into concrete action. We urge the other EU institutions to make any positive agenda they might pursue with Turkey conditional upon democratic reform” Nacho Sánchez Amor, S&D
He told journalists that the report “is particularly harsh,” adding, “Turkey is formally an accession candidate country and this means that it should, slowly but surely, align its policies with the EU and take on board EU values. But in Turkey things have got worse and led to this report being so critical.”
“We need to get the message across to Turkey that it must drop anti-EU rhetoric. We understand this is only for domestic purposes, but it must move down a path of the democratic reform it abandoned some years ago.”
“I see no political will for this on Turkey’s side and this has led to the accession process coming to a standstill. We don’t need speeches but concrete acts and for it to stop undermining democratic values.”
Further comment came from Belgian Renew Europe member Hilde Vautmans, her group’s coordinator in Foreign Affairs Committee and shadow rapporteur on Turkey.
She said, “It is time for the EU to stop playing Erdoğan’s game and to stand firm on its principles. The backsliding on democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights has continued and adding to that the current Turkish government has pursued a more confrontational and hostile foreign policy over the past two years.”
“As Turkey is moving further away from its European path, I just don't see how we can proceed with the accession negotiations. If Turkey does not urgently change course, the Commission must formally suspend accession negotiations.”