Turkey can’t join EU with new constitution: EU lawmaker

(Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images)

Turkey will close the door on joining the European Union if it adopts constitutional changes backed at a referendum last week, a leading member of the EU parliament responsible for dealings with Ankara said on Wednesday.

Kati Piri’s comments come a day after President Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters Turkey will not wait at Europe’s door forever and could walk away from EU accession talks if rising Islamophobia and hostility from some member states persist.

The Dutch centre-left lawmaker, who is “rapporteur” on Turkey, told reporters ahead of a plenary debate on relations with Turkey that if Erdogan pushed through all the changes, which enhance his own powers, then the EU should formally suspend long-stalled talks on membership.

“As Turkey with such a constitution cannot become an EU member, it also doesn’t make sense to continue discussions on accession,” said Piri, echoing a number of other leading figures in the legislature, which last year passed a non-binding resolution calling for a suspension of the process.

On Monday, the EU executive’s commissioner responsible for membership applications, Johannes Hahn, called on EU foreign ministers to consider ending Turkey‘s accession process when they meet in Malta on Friday.

Like Hahn, Piri suggested that Brussels could step up talks on enhancing the customs union which Turkey already has with the EU over the next two to three years. She said that process could also give Europeans leverage to persuade Turkey to reverse policies which EU leaders say are undermining Turkish democracy.