European Parliament & Observers hail EU-Turkey deal, but…


…human rights and freedoms must be respected!

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[Video – Plenary debate on Turkey]

The EU’s relations with Turkey are of “special importance”, not only because of the “pressing need” to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict, and tackle the refugee crisis and terrorism, Nicolas Schmit said on behalf of the Council Presidency. He stressed that the EU member states must step up checks at the EU’s external borders and enforce decisions on the refugee seekers relocation within the EU.

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans underlined that the summit had “opened a new chapter of EU partnership with Turkey”. Although it put new energy into efforts to speeding up the EU accession negotiations and visa liberalisation, differences on human rights and press freedom of press remained, he said and promised “to come back on this.”

“The summit took place because we have a major refugee problem along the Western Balkans. But let us also admit that this is so problematic because one EU member state, Greece, does not implement Schengen standards on its external Schengen border,” EPP group leader Manfred Weber (DE) said. “If we used all the border guards who are now doing duty inside the EU on the 190km border between Greece and Turkey, then this would be a better deal for Europe,” he added.

S&D chairman Gianni Pittella (IT) said: “The agreement with Turkey is an opportunity for everyone, but not a blank cheque. For the S&D, membership negotiations must restart. Turkey needs the EU but we need Turkey, too, because it is a force for stability. Without their cooperation, we cannot solve the refugee crisis.” “However, there are worrying issues like the fundamental rights situation”.

For the ECR group, Syed Kamall (UK) welcomed the EU-Turkey summit and called for transparency: “Let’s be clear vis-à-vis Turks about our relationship, vis-à-vis the EU citizens about what it implies and let’s work together on a long term solution rather than on short-term promises that will never been fulfilled”.

ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt (BE) regretted that the summit conclusions made no mention of human rights or press freedom in Turkey. “Greece is saying no to border and coast guards, blocking the tool in the Council”, he added and asked Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras be invited to explain his difficulties in finding a solution.

Speaking for the GUE/NGL group, Takis Hadjigeorgiou (CY) insisted that the Commission must “closely monitor how the billions of euro given to Turkey are used” and “react immediately if Turkey starts sending asylum seekers back to Syria”. He shared Rebecca Harms‘ (Greens/EFA, DE) mistrust: “Turkey can’t be a reliable partner when it comes to refugees; we need to address human rights issues more aggressively with Turkey,” she said.

Nigel Farage (EFDD, UK) and Marcel De Graaf (EFN, NL) criticized visa free access as part of the EU-Turkey deal. “Do you want Turkey to join the EU?” asked Mr Farage, while Mr De Graaf warned of a “new Ottoman empire” and a “Turkish invasion”.

Responding to MEPs, Mr Timmermans insisted that the agreement aimed to help those in need by allowing Syrians to work legally in Turkey and send their children to schools there and also by improving medical care for refugees. Offering them help in Turkey is “cheaper for EU taxpayers” and also “takes the smugglers away from the equation”, he said, stressing that opening accession chapters 23 and 24 was the “best possible way to help Turks” to improve their human rights record. [Source.]

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European Socialists support constructive and positive talks between EU and Turkey

European Socialists and Democrats urge for constructive talks and closer cooperation between the European Union and Turkey in order to fight against terrorism effectively and to bring solutions to the humanitarian consequences of the Syrian war, especially in managing the refugee crisis in an effective way and respecting human rights and European democratic values.

S&Ds welcomed the European leaders’ decision for the re-launching of the EU/Turkey accession process with the opening of new chapters for negotiation and urged the Turkish authorities to respect the rule of law, democratic values and rights of all Turkish citizens. The Turkish government must definitely fully respect the press freedom.

Kati Piri :“Reaching this agreement with Turkey is an important step that will make the influx of refugees to Europe manageable. We overlooked for too long the efforts made by the Turkish population by hosting 2, 2 million refugees. In the summit it was recognized that this refugee crisis could only be handled through partnership.

“An essential missing part of the EU-Turkey agreement is that, due to internal divisions among EU countries, no agreement has been reached on the resettlement of refugees. Other options than relying on smugglers will have to be given to people fleeing war. It is important to follow up on this and that we offer to genuinely share Turkey’s burden.

“We welcome the reinvigoration of the accession talks. It is a pity that this crisis was needed to convince member states that a more intensive dialogue between the EU and Turkey is very much in the interest of both. We do have, however, serious concerns about some internal developments in Turkey. Therefore, it was uncomfortable to be announcing a new phase in the EU-Turkey partnership during the same week that two top journalists were imprisoned and a famous Kurdish human rights lawyer assassinated.

“In order to make this new momentum last, it must be clear to both sides that the accession process is merit based and at the core are respect for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.”

Knut Fleckenstein: “More cooperation with Turkey is needed to face the regional challenges and bring peace and stability to the region.

“We support Turkey’s European integration and welcome the re-launching of the EU/Turkey negotiation process.

“Turkey needs to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Freedom of press, respect of journalists in their work and judicial independence are fundamental rights in a pluralist democracy and are a pre-condition for every country that really wants to become part of the European family.

“We call on Turkish government to re-launch the peace process with the Kurds and to support UN efforts for the reunification of Cyprus.”

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MONITORİNG MECHANISMS NEEDED FOR EU-TURKEY AGREEMENT ON REFUGEES

This afternoon, the European Parliament discussed the outcomes of the EU-Turkey Summit where 3 billion euros were promised to Turkey in exchange for stemming the flow of refugees into Europe.

Vice President of the European Parliament, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, told the plenary: “We must have monitoring mechanisms for the EU-Turkey framework agreement. We must make sure that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are respected. If we want results, then we must also put an end to the criminal gangs that smuggle human beings from Turkey to Greece, create a European land border and create fair and legal pathways for refugees coming from Turkey into European countries.”

Vice Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, Takis Hadjigeorgiou, also commented: “The European Commission must closely monitor the management of the billions that are being given to Turkey. There are refugees in primitive camps and thousands of people who live in terrible conditions. Today, only a few days after the agreement with Turkey, it was reported that 1,300 refugees were arrested in Turkey. And where is Turkey planning to send them? Back to Syria!! The European Commission must react immediately!”

Hadjigeorgiou also called for a solution to the Cyprus problem: “While the agreement makes no reference to the ailing democracy in Turkey, it makes a reference to the opening of chapters [in accession talks between the EU and Turkey]. Cyprus is ready to assist in this direction if Turkey shows that it is ready to support a solution in Cyprus that will create real conditions for Cypriot independence. And this can be achieved if the solution guarantees that the future of Cyprus lies in the hands of Cypriots alone, creating a future based on EU principles and the security provided by being a member state of the European Union. The Cypriot federal state has no need for foreign guarantees to safeguard a solution. I stress this because as we are close to a solution – after many decades – and we should not miss this opportunity because Turkey believes that it should maintain a guarantor role in the functioning of a member state.”

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TURKEY MUST RELEASE DETAINED ASYLUM SEEKERS AND STOP SENDING THEM BACK TO SYRIA

Following mass arrests of refugees in Turkey, GUE/NGL MEPs are calling on Turkey to release all detained asylum-seekers and to stop their current practice of ‘push-backs’ to Syria.

On Monday, Turkish authorities arrested 1,300 refugees that they claimed were hiding near the sea waiting to embark on boats to the Greek islands. These refugees are currently detained amidst concerns from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that some will be deported, including back to Syria.

There can be no coincidence that this large operation took place one day after the EU-Turkey Summit where the main aim was for the EU to stop asylum-seekers from reaching Europe.

GUE/NGL Coordinator in the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee, Cornelia Ernst, remarked: “European leaders should be ashamed that more than two years after the Lampedusa tragedy in October 2013, the Council is still discussing how to fight off asylum seekers who are trying to enter the EU. There are still no proposals on the table to create safe and legal pathways for migrants and asylum-seekers. It is still about voluntary schemes with nice words, but no commitments to follow-up.”

“On top of that, I am appalled that the situation of fundamental rights and the freedom of the press were not even on the agenda at the EU-Turkey Summit. This is an outrage for a summit with a country that is, after all, a candidate for accession to the EU,” added Ernst.

GUE/NGL Coordinator DROI Committee, Marie-Christine Vergiat, also commented: “Since July, and especially following the national election in November, the human rights situation in Turkey has deteriorated. The number of political assassinations has increased, as we have just seen in the example of Tahir Elçir. It is astounding that this has not had even the slightest impact on relations between the EU and Turkey. Single-mindedly obsessed with the question of migration, the EU has written off all other concerns, including the rights of refugees and migrants.”

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Is the EU Selling Out to Turkey?

Rosa Balfour: With many hot issues on the table, the EU cannot afford to fall into the trap of trading accession for cooperation on the refugee flow. Turkey is also vulnerable: it is surrounded by a devastating conflict, is internally insecure, and has few friends left in the region. Ankara’s diatribe with Moscow after Turkish forces shot down a Russian aircraft near the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24 was the latest in a series of foreign policy blunders. So Europe need not beg for Ankara’s cooperation.

Henri Barkey : The November 29 agreement may also be a poisoned chalice for Ankara, as the EU will intensely scrutinize every move Turkey makes to assess how well it lives up to its promises. In the end, Turkey will be blamed for any slip-up, further adding to European skepticism of Ankara. Paradoxically, this deal may doom Turkey’s European ambitions.

Federiga Bindi: As Turkey progressively became a regional broker in the Middle East, its record on civil liberties, human rights, and democratic principles worsened. Since 2006, the EU has pointed to the insufficiency of the government’s performance, a shortcoming that EU leaders cannot afford to overlook now by relaunching Turkey’s membership talks.

The EU is already seeing two of its greatest carrots—the promise of economic development and increased mobility—diminished. If the EU renegades on its founding values for the sake of stopping immigrants, why should other candidate countries be compelled to continue working toward meeting the Copenhagen criteria? And how can the EU’s values-based, soft-power foreign policy retain any of its credibility?

Rana Birden Çorbacıoğlu: The conclusions of the summit are far from the EU’s ability to regain its transformative power for Turkey, particularly as the EU failed to mention the urgency to open the chapters of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations on the judiciary and fundamental rights and on justice, freedom, and security.

Thomas de Waal: Turkey and the EU can’t ignore each other, so the fact that the migration crisis has forced them into a new intensive dialogue has to be good news. It’s no sellout if the two sides take the opportunity to reset their relationship.

A new pivot by Turkey toward the EU is not impossible. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a demagogue, but he is also an archpragmatist. When he was prime minister in the early 2000s, he made Europeanizing reforms. Now he can see that Turkey is more isolated than it has been for years: the relationship with Russia is imploding, and the Middle East is a disaster.

Thanos Dokos: Furthermore, neither side has any illusions about real progress on Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. In view of recent developments regarding the rule of law and human rights in Turkey, the best both sides should aim for is closer cooperation on foreign and security policy—and then only if there is a clearer convergence between the two sides’ objectives.

Ian Lesser: The deal signals a return to pragmatic, transactional diplomacy. It does not necessarily signal a fast track on the larger question of Turkey’s EU membership. Real movement on this front will require many things to come together, from improvement in Turkey’s deteriorating internal situation to settlement of the dispute over the division of Cyprus. It is not even clear that the political climate in Europe will permit visa liberalization for Turks, which was agreed to conditionally at the summit in Brussels, much less pave the way to EU membership.

Kati Piri: The EU is not lowering any of its standards for membership. But it has given the impression its silence can be bought in exchange for stemming the flow of refugees crossing the Aegean Sea.

Politicians who for years blocked any progress on accession talks were suddenly forced to change their position by 180 degrees. In October, the European Commission decided to postpone its annual progress reports for candidate and potential candidate countries to avoid upsetting Ankara just before Turkey’s November 1 poll.

Hugh Pope: When it comes to helping Turkey out with its 2.2 million Syrian refugees, the EU is not selling out: it has now offered money that should have been made available years ago. If this assistance had been sent earlier, it would certainly have done much more to head off this year’s refugee crisis.

For its part, Turkey should use this money to improve conditions in camps or perhaps, as Crisis Group recommended in 2014, initiate a scheme of housing vouchers. This may reduce the desperation of Syrians trying to leave, particularly now that winter is making travel more dangerous and difficult.

Marietje Schaake: On top of regional tensions, polarization in Turkey has reached an all-time low. The arrest of two prominent journalists on November 26 and the murder two days later of a human rights lawyer in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir brought the country to boiling point, right when Turkish leaders were shaking hands with their EU counterparts.

While the deal reached at the summit was supposed to revive EU-Turkey relations, it was in fact stillborn. The agreement seems to have served domestic political purposes on both sides, but in reality these political benefits are wearing off, and the hard results remain to be seen.

Stephen Szabo: Europeans now have to make messy compromises that realpolitik demands, starting with Turkey. Turkey is Europe’s Mexico. The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has compromised with Mexico, providing aid and other incentives to a semifailed state in return for its assistance in halting the influx of economic and political refugees from Central America, with success. Europe now has to do the same with Turkey. The only question is the price Europe must pay, but this is one precondition for stabilizing Europe. More such compromises are sure to follow.

Nathalie Tocci: While the EU may be reenergizing Turkey’s accession process today for the wrong reasons, the outcome could be positive. If a settlement is reached in the coming months over the division of Cyprus, the ensuing unfreezing of most remaining accession chapters could neatly dovetail with a new political climate in Europe in which Turkey’s strategic value is finally appreciated. At that point, there could be a genuine revitalization of EU-Turkey relations and Turkey’s reform momentum.

Not all things are done for the right reasons. But maybe, just maybe, the outcome in this case could end up being positive nevertheless.

Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı: Consumed by its own crisis, the EU has little appetite for further enlargement, while being virtually at war with itself. Meanwhile, Turkey is not in democratization mode. These circumstances have inevitably led to the accession process being put on the back burner. The positive agenda that was launched in 2012 to reenergize EU-Turkey relations has not delivered any concrete results either.

Elements of the November 29 deal correspond to the positive agenda and may hopefully revitalize the EU-Turkey relationship if implemented. However, this deal is missing an essential aspect: promoting political reforms and fundamental rights in Turkey. The EU accession process was seen as a democratic anchor for Turkey, but the fact that Turkey can make gains in the process accompanied by concerns over the rule of law and media freedoms in the country raises concerns that this may not be the case anymore.

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Read the full interview realized by Judy Dempsey – Wednesday, December 2, 2015 – Q&A

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