Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Strasbourg, 7 June 2022

  • Close EU-Turkey cooperation in foreign and security policy vitally important
  • No improvements on fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law
  • Turkey should handle Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications in good faith

Without clear and significant progress on EU-related reforms, Parliament cannot envisage resuming accession negotiations with Turkey, warned MEPs on Tuesday.

In a report adopted on Tuesday by 448 votes in favour, 67 against and 107 abstentions, MEPs warn that in spite of Turkey’s repeated statements that it aims to become an EU member, over the past two years the country has consistently gone back on its commitments in relation to the accession process.

Parliament welcomes the recent slight improvement in overall EU-Turkey relations, in particular, the high-level dialogues. This enhanced cooperation has unfortunately coexisted alongside regular conflicts, as relations with neighbouring EU member states remain challenging, stress MEPs.

The report points to the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey. MEPs regret the sustained legal and administrative pressure on civil society and human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists. They call on the Commission to provide sufficient funding for pro-democracy efforts in Turkey.

Importance of close EU-Turkey cooperation in foreign and security policy

Welcoming Turkey’s willingness to act as a mediator in the Russian war against Ukraine, MEPs stress the vital importance of good EU-Turkey cooperation in foreign and security policy in the current challenging times and thank the country for its firm alignment with NATO and the EU.

The report commends Turkey’s efforts in continuing to host the largest refugee population in the world, and notes the sustained provision of EU funding for this purpose, which MEPs commit to maintain in the future. They also support the Commission’s proposal to start negotiations to update a mutually beneficial Customs Union, but warn that Parliament would only support a final agreement if necessary democratic conditions on human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect of international law and good neighbourly relations are met.

To sum-up, Parliament cannot at this stage justify modifying its position concerning the formal suspension of the accession negotiations with Turkey, which have effectively been at a standstill since 2018, MEPs say. By openly defying the binding rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the case of Osman Kavala and others, the current Turkish Government has deliberately demolished any aspirations of reopening the EU accession process at this time, they add.

Turkish objections to Sweden and Finland’s NATO applications

MEPs call on the Turkish government to handle Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership applications in good faith, to engage constructively in efforts to solve possible outstanding issues and to refrain from exerting any undue pressure in this process. In the current serious circumstances, it is important that all NATO allies act with foresight and swiftly ratify the accession protocols of the two countries, they stress.

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“In the current challenging times, values and principles, which are at the core of any EU accession process, cannot come second to any geopolitical contingency. That is why the Parliament – and I hope all EU institutions – will not remain silent when faced with the current authoritarian spiral in the country. Instead of regaining trust – a much-needed asset in EU-Turkey relations – we are now losing it; the irresponsible veto in NATO and the rising tensions with EU member states are worrying signs for the future, marked by a pre-electoral situation in the country. If there is no change, I can hardly see the accession process surviving another five years”, said rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, Spain).

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The S&Ds urge Ankara to end its authoritarian drift and stop accommodating Russia. Turkey should instead support NATO enlargement for Finland and Sweden, and align with the EU sanctions imposed against the Kremlin in response to the Russian war against Ukraine.

Without significant progress in the current disastrous situation for freedom and the rule of law in Turkey, the European Union cannot envisage resuming accession negotiations with Turkey, which have effectively been at a standstill since 2018, warns the report adopted on Tuesday.

S&D MEP Nacho Sánchez Amor, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said:

“What we see in Turkey is a deliberate regression, eroding fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in a country that was once an inspiring democracy. Now the authoritarian spiral seems to have no end, taking the democratic hopes of several generations of Turks down the drain. If there is no change in this trend, I personally don’t believe that the accession process can survive five more years.

“Turkey’s attempt to mediate in the war in Ukraine was welcome, even if it failed. But Turkey must understand that this role will not buy our silence faced with a further crackdown on democratic values. In addition, Turkey has not just refused to join the EU sanctions against Russia, it is also inviting Kremlin kleptocrats to enjoy the Turkish coast – and bring their investments – it is issuing credit cards to thousands of Russian citizens and increasing flights to Russia. Seen as a whole, it looks pretty much like a system to circumvent sanctions.

“If the war in Ukraine marks the division between democracies and authoritarian systems, it is obvious that Turkey is not in our camp, as the model of society that President Erdoğan offers to its society is actually the Russian one. And Turkey’s irresponsible threat to veto Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO is a longed-for political gift for the Kremlin, which is always looking for divisions between allies. By acting like this, Turkey is wasting its potential geopolitical role, reinforcing its bad image and deepening its isolation.”