EU Wants to Decouple Turkish Membership Bid From Migrant Deal

Lawmakers criticize Turkey's lack of freedom of expression and refusal to recognize the mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomes Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 5, 2015.

AP - The European Union parliament wants to decouple the commitment to speed up EU membership talks with Turkey from last month's agreement with Ankara to deal with the migrant crisis.

Lawmakers said in Thursday's non-binding resolution that "EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should not be linked to the calendar, content and conditionality of the negotiation process."

In the March 18 EU-Turkey agreement, both sides agreed that irregular migrants who came across the Aegean to Greece would be sent back to Turkey. In exchange, some Syrian refugees in Turkey would be sent on to the 28-nation bloc, the EU would give Turkey billions of euros in aid to deal with refugees and it would boost Turkey's EU membership talks.

The legislators also criticized the Turkish government's takeover of a leading newspaper and other moves to muzzle freedom of expression, key elements for any nation seeking to join the bloc. Parliamentary rapporteur Kati Piri said instead of going forward toward more democracy, "there has been a regression (in Turkey), which is particularly worrying."

The resolution also referred to a previous call that urged Ankara to recognize the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago as genocide.

Turkey rejects the term genocide to describe those mass killings. Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed and experts say it was the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey's EU affairs minister, Volkan Bozkir, said Ankara had declared last year's report "null and void" because it called on Turkey to recognize genocide.

"This year, the same reference features in the European Parliament's report," Bozkir said. "For that reason we will also declare this report null and void."