EU parliament head threatens Turkey with economic sanctions over crackdown on dissent

By bne IntelliNews November 14, 2016

The European Union may consider economic sanctions against Turkey in response to the government's ongoing crackdown on dissent, the European Parliament’s chief Martin Schulz told a German newspaper over the weekend, in a sign that the already tense relations between Ankara and Brussels could be further strained.

A customs union agreement between Turkey and the bloc came into force in 1995. The EU is Turkey’s largest trading partner with nearly half of the country’s exports going to the bloc. Last year, around 58% of FDI inflows into Turkey originated from the EU. It is difficult to predict if the EU could really take such a drastic measure that will definitely anger Ankara especially at a time when it desperately needs Turkey to stop the flow of millions of refugees and when the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are escalating where Ankara supports military efforts there to contain Islamic State.

“We as the EU will have to consider which economic measures we can take. The reform of the EU Customs Union should happen before the end of the year. I can’t imagine that after a wave of arrests of opposition MPs and journalists we will expand the Customs Union”, Schulz told Bild am Sonntag. The European Parliament chief, however, still thinks the bloc should not break off talks with Ankara. But, he warned that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, then accession negotiations would be ended.

EU leaders are expected to discuss measures against Turkey at their summit in December, according to Deutsche Welle. Meanwhile, the foreign affairs council which is made up of EU member states’ foreign ministers will assess the recent developments in the country at a gathering scheduled for November 14.

Increasing threats from the EU seem to have little impact on politicians in Ankara. In response to Schulz’s remarks on possible economic sanctions, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused the EU parliament chief of defending the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The minister challenged Schulz, saying that “Schulz should do whatever is necessary to impose economic sanctions”, as Anadolu Ajansi reports.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a travel warning at the weekend for the United States amid protests staged following the election of Donald Trump as the new president. “Racist and xenophobic abuse incidents have increased in the US”, the ministry said. It looks like the travel warning is Turkey’s response to its Western allies that have warned their citizens about the deteriorating security conditions in the country.

Last month, the US State Department ordered family members of employees posted to the consulate general in Istanbul to leave because of security concerns. Germany and France, too, earlier this year closed their diplomatic missions for several days.

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