European Union foreign ministers urged Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time) to respect the law and human rights in dealing with defeated coup plotters, warning that reinstating the death penalty would likely end Ankara’s EU membership bid.
After a breakfast in Brussels with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the ministers condemned the weekend coup attempt in a common EU statement, but expressed alarm at Erdogan’s public comments on Sunday (Monday NZT) that there could be no delay in using capital punishment.
“The EU recalls that the unequivocal rejection of the death penalty is an essential element of the union acquis,” ministers said, referring to the body of EU law that underpins the bloc.
The statement was agreed by all 28 EU ministers, including new British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who campaigned successfully for Britons to vote to leave the bloc, attending his first EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
Germany, Austria and France also warned separately that bringing back the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004, would undo years of membership talks that began in 2005.
“Reintroduction of the death penalty would prevent successful negotiations to join the EU,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a position echoed by his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in less direct terms.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini noted that Turkey was a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans capital punishment across the continent.
It will be interesting to see what Erdogan does. Being able to join the EU has been an ambition for Turkey for many years, and will he want to walk away from that?
Having said that, the chance of membership in the foreseeable future is minimal. A few years ago there was considerable support for Turkey being able to join, but since then freedom of speech and other aspects of democracy have been whittled away.