EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated to such an extent that the EU needs to profoundly reassess them, MEPs say in a report adopted on Wednesday.
In recent years, the Government of Turkey has distanced itself increasingly from EU values and standards. As a result, relations have been brought to a historic low point, warn MEPs, who are particularly concerned about the state of the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights.
In the report adopted on Wednesday, they insist that if Turkey does not reverse this current negative trend, the Commission should recommend that the accession negotiations be formally suspended.
Hyper-centralisation of power
Criticising Turkey’s regressive institutional reforms, they are alarmed by the “authoritarian interpretation of the presidential system”, pointing to the lack of independence of the judiciary and “continued hyper-centralisation of power in the presidency”. MEPs call on Turkey’s relevant authorities to release all imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, academics and others who have been detained by the government on unsubstantiated charges.
MEPs are also worried about Turkey’s hostile foreign policy, including towards Greece and Cyprus, as well its involvement in Syria, Libya, and Nagorno-Karabakh, which consistently collides with the EU’s priorities. They also repeat their encouragement to Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide, which would pave the way for a genuine reconciliation between the Turkish and Armenian peoples.
Call for continuous support to Syrian refugees
Reaffirming their conviction that Turkey is a key partner for stability in the wider region, MEPs acknowledge the EU’s ongoing diplomatic efforts for a true and effective dialogue with the country.
The report recalls that Turkey still plays an important role as host to almost 4 million refugees, of which approximately 3.6 million are Syrian, noting that the challenges in addressing this crisis have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It commends these efforts and encourages the EU to continue to give the necessary support to Syrian refugees and to host communities in Turkey. They emphasize though that the use of migrants and refugees as a tool for political leverage, and blackmail cannot be accepted.
Finally, MEPs stress that within Turkey there exists a diverse and engaged civil society, one of the few remaining checks on government power. They urge the Commission to continue to support Turkish civil society organisations financially.
The rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES).said: “This report is probably the toughest yet in its criticism of the situation in Turkey. It reflects all that has unfortunately happened in the country in the last two years, in particular in the fields of human rights and rule of law, which remain the main concern for the European Parliament, and in its relations towards the EU and its members. We hope Turkey will definitively change course and put recent expressions of good will into concrete action. We urge the other EU institutions to make any positive agenda they might pursue with Turkey conditional upon democratic reform.”
The report was adopted on Wednesday by 480 votes in favour, 64 against and 150 abstentions.