Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s (EP) rapporteur on Turkey, said in a report presented to the EP on Wednesday that the continuation of a negotiating process aimed at EU integration of Turkey has lost all credibility under the present circumstances.
“With the full implementation of the constitutional amendments, which legitimizes an all-powerful presidency with powers to personally appoint or dismiss ministers, select judges and rule by decree, a red line has been crossed for the European Parliament,” Piri said and added: “In its last report the European Parliament warned that it would propose a formal suspension of the accession talks if this would indeed happen. That is now the case.”
“Continuing a negotiating process aimed at EU integration of Turkey has lost all credibility under the present circumstances”, Piri said. “Apart from the clearly autocratic nature of the recently introduced presidential system, which lacks the necessary democratic checks and balances, it is impossible to ignore the further regression of the rule of law with over 50,000 people, including journalists, politicians, and human rights defenders, still in jail since the attempted coup and 150,000 civil servants dismissed without proper legal procedures.”
“The more friendly statements of the Turkish government about the EU and some of its member states or for example the restoration of full diplomatic relations with The Netherlands cannot conceal these facts,” said Piri.
“The Council is partly to blame for this situation since it has not used past opportunities to engage the Turkish regime in serious talks about democracy and rule of law by refusing to open the relevant negotiating chapters, as proposed several times by the European Parliament,” reminded Piri and added that “Now that there has been a stark regression in all these areas, the same Council refuses to draw a red line, although fully aware of the fact that in reality, accession talks have come to a complete standstill.”
“Both the EU (or at least a majority of Member States) and the Turkish government itself seem to cling to the membership option more in theory than in practice. It seems that an impasse is the favored option of both sides. Consequently, the relations between the EU and Turkey have become more and more purely transactional,” added Piri.
Piri, although proposing the suspension of the accession negotiations, does not want to close the door on Turkey’s people. “A democratic and economically stable Turkey is in the interest of the European Union. Therefore, all tools should be used to keep Turkey anchored to the EU and its values.”
Saying that the modernization and upgrade of the customs union would provide an opportunity for democratic conditionality as long as there is a concrete commitment by Turkey on genuine reforms, Piri said, “This would also allow for a concrete debate about climate change and labor rights where Turkey shows a dismal record.”
“Visa liberalization is of great importance for all Turkey’s citizens, especially students, business representatives and people with family ties in EU member states,” said Piri and added that “I, therefore, encourage the Turkish government to comply with all 72 criteria, including bringing Turkey’s anti-terror legislation in line with European standards.”
“Trying to find a way around the stalled integration process, would be an important signal to all those in Turkey that want a different country and oppose the current regime,” Piri said, adding: “Linking the EU normative agenda to an upgrade of the Customs Union and the visa liberalisation process would also signal to the broader Turkish public that the EU is not out to isolate the country. However, the success of both these steps will depend on positive moves from Ankara, such as genuine democratic reforms and a restoration of the rule of law in the country.”