Kati Piri, EP rapporteur on Turkey, presented her annual report today. It was a difficult year for the Turkish people due to the ongoing war in neighboring Syria, the millions of refugees that entered the country, the series of terrorist attacks, and the violent coup attempt of last summer. The response to this by the Turkish government has been to put human rights and the rule of law under even further pressure.
“Since the start of the accession talks with Turkey in 2004, both the EU and Turkey have undergone significant internal changes. During the last years, we have seen Turkey drifting further away from democratic values, while the EU showed insufficient commitment and did not use the negotiating instruments at its disposal to turn the tide. With the introduction of the new constitutional changes, it will make no sense to continue the accession talks with the current Turkish government.
A country with such a constitution cannot become member of the EU. I therefore call on the EU leaders to officially suspend the accession talks if the new constitution and all amendments are implemented unchanged.”
“Having said that, we have to be vigilant in making sure that justified criticism on Erdogan’s policies does not turn into anti-Turkish sentiments. That would be a disservice to an entire population, and, as also became clear from the referendum, there are millions of Turkish people that do share European values and that would like the EU to remain an anchor for future reforms in their country. Those forces deserve our full support. The 600 million euros a year that will become available when talks are suspendend should therefore be used to that end.”
“We cannot just ignore Turkey, as it is an important neighbouring country. Cooperation will therefore continue to be essential in areas such as trade, counter-terrorism, migration, and our concerted efforts in ending the war in Syria. However, that cannot be a value-free relationship where human rights and democracy are no longer important. To achieve this, we can use the economic power of the EU as leverage. Ankara has an interest in intensifying trade with the EU through upgrading the customs union. That is a perfect opportunity to set political benchamarks to that economic cooperation.”