PRESSURE GROWING IN EU TO HALT TURKISH MEMBERSHIP TALKS, NO DECISION YET

BRUSSELS, -- European Union foreign ministers will on Monday consider shelving membership talks with Turkey over what they see as its disturbing lurch away from democracy after a botched coup there, though there is no consensus for such a tough step yet.

Despite EU alarm at the scale of Ankara's post-coup security crackdown, EU diplomats say they must keep talking to President Tayyip Erdogan to retain his crucial help in curbing migration to Europe and fighting Islamist militants in the Middle East.

But the fact that Austria, Luxembourg and some European lawmakers now openly call for suspending the Turkey talks marks a sea change in tone just eight months after the bloc promised Ankara the process would be sped up in exchange for its collaboration in reducing migration from its territory.

"Suspending membership talks with Turkey is not formally on the agenda but we expect some ministers to bring this up," one EU official said of the 28 foreign ministers' meeting scheduled in Brussels on Monday.

"It is true some deeply troubling things are happening in Turkey. But you have to ask yourself the question what exactly would we achieve by suspending the process now? How would that help? We need to keep communication channels open."

An EU report this week accused Turkey of backsliding on its road to membership since the July coup attempt, since which Ankara has suspended, dismissed or arrested over 110,000 people including soldiers, judges, teachers, journalists and Kurdish leaders over alleged support of the putsch.

The EU's top enlargement official said Turkey's EU candidacy was now hanging in the balance.

"This is something that could happen," one diplomat in Brussels said. "But not just yet, definitely not until EU leaders meet in December."

Berlin, as well as several other EU capitals, have so far poured cold water on talk of aborting Turkey membership talks.

An EU-Turkey deal reached in March has cut to a trickle the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe via Greece from Turkish shores after more than a million arrivals last year.

Turkey has told the EU it will have to "live with the consequences" if it halts membership talks.

Turkey has set its sights on getting visa-free travel for its citizens to the EU by the end of the year in return for making sure migrants do not leave its shores for Europe. That prospect, however, is also looking increasingly dim.

Turkey reinstating death penalty would mark crossing a red line for EU leaders. "If Turkey pushes through death penalty legislation, then the halt of the accession process will be automatic," a senior EU diplomat said.

Source: Nam News Network