Political group leaders and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on the European Union to freeze its accession talks with Turkey on the back of “disproportionately repressive measures taken in Turkey since the failed military coup in July”. The move comes weeks ahead of planned trade talks between the two.

In a debate with EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini and commissioner, Johannes Hahn, political group leaders argued that Turkey was heading towards a constitutional reform that was not in compliance with EU values and principles. They called on a freeze to accession talks with clear conditions for any restart. The European parliament will vote on the issue later this week.

Turkey and the EU currently trade under the Turkey-EU Customs Union (CU) which was drafted in 1995. The agreement, which only covers industrial goods and is now over 20 years old, is due for renegotiation and updating.

“The Customs Union is what’s defining the trade relationship. Trouble is, its horribly out of date and was always meant as an interim agreement pending accession,” partner at King and Spalding’s international trade practice, Iain MacVay, tells GTR.

“It really needs to be radically improved and updated, even the World Bank has called for a renewal.”

The updating process has been in the works for a couple of years, with various assessments and preparatory work completed, and negotiations due to start early next year.

Turkey first filed for application to the EU in 1959 and talks have been in play in some form ever since. Successful membership into the EU would obviously see Turkey become part of the bloc’s single market, but further delays to the process could leave the trade relation in question.

“It’s important to underline the accession negotiations right now. Neither EU nor Turkey is sitting at that table. They have both left. Formally there is still a process along the way but there is no motivational gravitas on the sincerity from either side on what the accession talks and process would entail,” IHS Markit Mena analyst, Ege Seçkin, tells GTR.

Turkey’s geographical position makes it an attractive commercial gateway between the East and the West. There are also much wider geopolitical factors surrounding Turkey’s relationship with the EU, most significantly co-operation with migration policy and security.

Meanwhile, Turkey is still very heavily dependent on Europe and the EU countries for trade. According to Seçkin, its trade is still predominantly with the EU with most recent data showing that there is greater decline in its trade relations with Middle Eastern partners than with Europe.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the pragmatism on behalf of the Turkish government. [However] sometimes the imperative of consolidating support domestically and using the EU and the EU accession process, or the perception of Turkey’s mistreatment by the EU, might get in the way of pragmatic interests,” adds Seçkin.

“The question is, politically, will this vote change Turkey’s attitude [towards securing agreements with the EU]. The risk is that Turkey decides this is an insult that shows bad will and decides it’s not going to negotiate the CU,” says MacVay.

“But I don’t think they’ll do that. Their business is too intertwined to the EU and exporting to the EU. What I hope is that everyone will redouble their efforts to get the CU negotiations off the ground and finalise it as soon as possible.”