EP rapporteur says visa-free travel impossible for Turks without easing of terrorism laws

Nacho Sánchez Amor

Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, has said as long as Turkey does not soften its counterterrorism laws, the EU will not ease travel restrictions for Turkish citizens, Turkish Minute reported on Tuesday, citing the T24 news website.

Amor, who spoke to T24 about a recent European Parliament report on Turkey and the reaction of the Turkish president to the report, said there are six criteria Turkey has to meet as part of its EU membership bid for visa-free travel to the EU, the most important being the easing of its counterterrorism and data protection laws.

He said half of Turkey comprises terrorists if one believes the rhetoric of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, complaining about the broad definition of terrorism in Turkey.

The Turkish government is accused of using the country’s counterterrorism laws to punish its critics.

The EU Parliament report sharply criticized Turkey’s record on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, citing problems such as media suppression, judicial manipulation and discrimination against minority groups, attracting an angry reaction from the Turkish foreign ministry and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The foreign ministry dismissed the report, calling it a collection of “unfounded allegations and prejudices,” while Erdoğan said over the weekend that Turkey can part ways with the EU as he accused the bloc of disengaging from Turkey.

Amor said he was surprised at Erdoğan’s reaction to the EP report on Turkey because the report’s content is no different than the content of its previous reports.

He said he did not understand whether Erdoğan’s reaction was specifically about the EP report or other issues in Turkey-EU relations.

Turkey and the EU began membership talks in 2005, but the process has been at a standstill in recent years.

Countries aspiring to become members must align their laws and legislation in 35 policy areas, or negotiating chapters.

EU leaders agreed in 2018 that no new chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations should be opened or closed.

Amor said the people and the political actors in Turkey should not confuse Turkey-EU relations with Turkey’s EU accession process, which he described as a normative process based on rules.

He said every country that wants to be an EU member has to meet certain criteria, that this is not open to discussion and that every country aspiring to become an EU member should be a mature democracy where human rights, the rule of law and freedoms are upheld.

Accusing Turkey’s political elites of parting ways with democracy, Amor said the EU had problems when it accepted countries such as Poland and Hungary as members due to their immature democracies and does not want to go though the same problems again.

He said if a country wants to enter the bloc, it has to has a mature democracy.

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