Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that he expects parliament to move to allow capital punishment – a change that could officially end Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary of a World War I campaign, Erdogan focused on the current political climate rather than historical successes.
“The families of the martyrs, the heroes [those killed as a result of a failed July 15 coup attempt] don’t need to worry,” he said as quoted from the rally by the French Press Agency. “I believe, God willing, that after the April 16 vote parliament will do the what is needed concerning your demands for capital punishment.”
The EU has long said that reinstating capital punishment in Turkey, which was outlawed there in 2004, would be the end of Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the bloc.
Tensions with Europe already are high as Turkey prepares for the April 16 referendum, which would broaden president Erdogan’s powers. Turkish officials have been campaigning among emigre Turks in Germany and the Netherlands to promote the referendum. Many of the scheduled rallies were canceled by German and Dutch leaders, resulting in various spats – including Erdogan referring to the Netherlands as “Nazi remnants”.
In addition to damaging Turkey’s chances of joining the EU, the diplomatic crisis threatens a deal agreed upon by the two sides last year that is aimed at alleviating the refugee crisis in Europe.
The ceremony, at which Erdogan spoke, marked the anniversary of what the Turkish people call the Canakkale battle, one of the greatest Ottoman victories during World War I and a defining moment in Turkish history.
Saturday’s celebrations also featured the beginning of construction on what would be the world’s largest suspension bridge, as announced by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.