The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of freezing the EU’s membership negotiations with Turkey.
Of the 623 lawmakers present for Thursday’s vote in Strasbourg, France, 479 were in favour, 37 against and 107 abstained.
The non-binding vote has no legal impact on the talks, but it sends a strong political signal to Ankara and puts pressure on the European Commission, which is leading the negotiations.
“Turkey is an important partner of the EU,” lawmakers said in an emailed statement. “But in partnerships, the will to cooperate has to be two-sided.”
“The [Turkish] government’s actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path,” the lawmakers added.
Membership negotiations between the EU and Turkey began in 2005, but aversion to Turkey joining the 28-member bloc has grown steadily over the past four months against the backdrop of Ankara’s heavy-handed response to a failed military coup on July 15.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed the significance of the European vote, saying it had “no value” regardless of the outcome.
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister, Omer Celik echoed Erdogan’s comments on Thursday, adding that the resolution was “a short-sighted political decision lacking in vision.”
EU lawmakers should look to Turkey for tips on democracy, Celik said, adding that the EU was experiencing a “crisis of values, specifically right-wing extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
“Relations with the EU are not very close anyhow,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Thursday in Ankara. “It’s a relationship that grudgingly goes on with effort and out of necessity.”
Erdogan declared a state of emergency days after the putsch, allowing him to rule by decree and carry out thousands of arrests and suspensions within the military and civil service.
The imprisonment of 10 journalists and employees at opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet and the arrest of 10 opposition lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party added to worries about the rule of law and freedom of expression in Turkey.
The crackdown in Turkey is said to target supporters of a movement led by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who was once an ally of Erdogan and is now blamed for the coup.
Erdogan has repeatedly threatened that his government could to reintroduce the death penalty – something that the European Union has said would exclude Turkey from membership.
Under the EU parliament’s proposal, the return of capital punishment to Turkey would trigger an automatic, formal suspension of membership talks that would require unanimous approval from member states to reverse.
According to a draft of Thursday’s resolution, lawmakers pledged to review their position when “disproportionate measures under the state of emergency in Turkey are lifted” and then evaluate “whether the rule of law and human rights are restored throughout the country.”