By Ayhan Simsek
The German government has rejected calls from opposition parties to suspend Turkey’s EU membership talks after Sunday’s referendum in which more than 50 percent of Turks voted “Yes” to a transition to a presidential system.
In an interview with the German daily Bild on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel underlined Turkey’s strategic importance for Germany and the EU, adding that he favored a continuation of an EU-Turkey dialogue despite recent tensions.
“It is more important now to maintain the dialogue and to keep communication channels open,” he said, adding that dialogue with Ankara had been difficult in recent months.
He also warned against further antagonizing Ankara, saying it was not in the EU’s interest to see Turkey moving closer to Russia.
Following Sunday’s referendum, Germany’s opposition The Left Party has demanded the suspension of Ankara’s EU talks arguing that the transition to a presidential system would move Turkey away from democracy.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner Christian Social Union (CSU) also called for an end to Turkey’s EU membership bid.
The German foreign minister criticized politicians for making radical suggestions for domestic political gains.
While defending the continuation of Turkey’s EU membership talks, Gabriel also underlined that the future of Turkey’s EU perspective would depend on Ankara’s upcoming moves.
“One thing is clear: The introduction of the death penalty would be synonymous with the end of the European dream. I hope that it would not happen,” he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week that he would sign the death penalty into law if it is approved by parliament, or in another referendum.
The proposed switch from a parliamentary to a presidential system in Turkey had sparked a debate in European countries, with several politicians arguing that such a change would weaken the independence of the judiciary, and other necessary checks and balances of a democratic system.
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has dismissed such concerns and underlines that it would bring a more effective administrative system that would enhance political stability.