EU Summit – 17-18 December/Brussels : Turkey…


Membership, Cooperation in key areas, Fundamental rights, Press freedom, Peace talks with Kurds, Visa, Cyprus…

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Copyright: No commercial use. Credit ‘The European Union’

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The European Parliament’s standing rapporteurs on Turkey today sent a letter to VP/HR Federica Mogherini, calling on EU leaders to make sure that there is a genuine EU commitment to defend press freedom in Turkey and de-escalate the situation in the South East of the country. The best way to do that would be for EU leaders to raise these matters in the conclusions of the European Council that will take place on 17 and 18 of December.

S&D MEP Kati Piri and European Parliament rapporteur said:

Turkey is a key partner of the EU to deal with the refugee crisis. Cooperation on this matter is needed and welcome. But Turkey is also an EU candidate country. This means it must be held accountable for the deterioration of fundamental rights in the country.”

The joint letter further reads:

According to the 2015 world press freedom index of reporters without borders, Turkey has slid back to 149th position out of 180 countries. There are currently 32 jailed journalists in Turkey. 104 more journalists are under custody, 49 of them only in the last three months. 797 journalists have a publishing ban. In this context, we are particularly worried about the arrest, on 26 November, of Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief, and Erdem Gül, the daily’s Ankara bureau chief.

In addition, the signatories would also like to draw attention to the deteriorating situation in the South East of Turkey. The return to violence by the PKK is unacceptable. Arms must be laid down, as violence cannot bring any solution to the Kurdish question. But also the detention of 22 local mayors and the long-lasting curfews, for which citizens pay a very high price, must be addressed. Following the elections and the appointment of a new government in Ankara we believe it is high time for both parties to go back to the negotiation table and re-launch the peace process. The EU should pro-actively encourage any initiative seeking peace.

Finally, EU cannot trade off our values for the protection of our borders. That was the message also Can Dündar sent to the EU heads of governments. During the EU-Turkey Summit, regretfully none of these matters have been raised in the final statement of the meeting.

The letter has been signed by Kati Piri, MEP (S&D, the Netherlands), Renate Sommer, MEP (EPP, Germany), Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, MEP (ALDE, Germany), Takis Hadjigeorgiou, MEP (GUE-NGL, Cyprus) and Bodil Valero, MEP (Greens, Sweden).

§ S&D Group welcomes the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey [EN]

SUMMIT: ENLARGEMENT AND STABILISATION AND ASSOCIATION PROCESS

TURKEY:

The Council reaffirms the importance it attaches to EU relations with Turkey, a candidate country and a key partner for the Union, as underlined by the recent EU-Turkey Leaders’ meeting. The EU should remain the anchor for Turkey’s political and economic reforms. The Council welcomes the recently reaffirmed commitment of the new Turkish government to EU accession. Recalling the conclusions of the European Council of 15 October 2015, the accession process needs to be re-energized with a view to achieving progress in the negotiations in accordance with the negotiating framework and the relevant Council conclusions. In this regard, the Council welcomes the opening of chapter 17 – Economic and Monetary Policy on 14 December 2015. The Council stands ready to fully support Turkey in case it intends to intensify work to fulfil set opening benchmarks, in particular of chapters 5, 8 and 19. The Council takes note of the Commission’s intention to present the preparatory documents of a number of chapters in the first quarter of 2016, without prejudice to Member States’ positions. Turkey can accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfilment of the benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU.

In this context and building on the outcome of the recent EU-Turkey Leaders’ meeting, the Council welcomes the broad and coherent strategic engagement and comprehensive regular political dialogue within the established framework, including at Ministerial level. The Council also welcomes cooperation with Turkey in key areas of joint interest and challenges such as migration, counter-terrorism, energy, economy and trade, including the Customs Union, as provided for in the Council conclusions of 16 December 2014. These important engagements complement the accession negotiations and the Council stands ready to further develop the cooperation with Turkey within established frameworks. The Council calls on Turkey to progressively align with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy in line with the Negotiating Framework.

The Council commends Turkey for its generosity in hosting and addressing the needs of over 2 million Syrian refugees. The Council welcomes the activation, on 29 November 2015, of the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan for refugees and migration management, as part of a comprehensive cooperation agenda based on shared responsibility, mutual commitments and delivery. The Council looks forward to monitoring, in close cooperation with the Commission, its swift and effective implementation, with a view to achieving results in particular in stemming the influx of irregular migrants and the dismantling of criminal smuggling networks.

The Council notes positively that Turkey, as regards alignment with the EU acquis, has reached a good level of preparation in many areas, in particular as regards economic criteria. However, a number of developments give cause for serious concern. Turkey urgently needs to remedy and further address major shortcomings identified in the Commission’s report, notably in the areas of rule of law and fundamental rights. Steps should be taken as a matter of urgency, particularly towards reversing the undermining of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and the significant backsliding in the area of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The Council notes with particular concern the judicial proceedings brought against critical media, journalists, writers, as well as social media platforms and users. The Council calls on Turkey to ensure the full respect for the principle of separation of powers and for human rights, including rights of women, children and persons belonging to minorities, freedom of religion and property rights, as well as to enhance implementation of all the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The Council recalls that under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the contracting parties undertake to abide by the final judgments of the Court in any case to which they are parties. Addressing other important areas where little or no progress has been noted, such as the fight against corruption, should also be a priority. In order to address these and other issues, the Council considers that stepping up cooperation in the area of rule of law and fundamental rights will bring Turkey closer to the EU. In this regard, the Council takes note of the Commission’s commitment to complete, in the first quarter of 2016, preparatory work in these key areas, without prejudice to Member States’ positions.

The Council condemns all terrorist attacks and violence in Turkey and expresses its solidarity with the people of Turkey. The Council pledges its support to fight terrorism, while respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law.

With regard to the situation in the South East of Turkey, the Council calls for the immediate cessation of terrorist violence and strongly urges the parties to resume the peace talks, aiming for a sustained political solution to the Kurdish issue. This could put an end to related terrorism and facilitate economic and social development in the region.

With regard to visa liberalisation, the Council notes that successful implementation of the joint Action Plan for refugees and migration management between the EU and Turkey could contribute to accelerating the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap towards all participating Member States. While regretting Turkey’s unilateral statements in this regard, which have no legal effect, the Council underlines the importance of full and effective implementation of both the readmission agreement and the visa roadmap vis-à-vis all Member States, including cooperation on JHA issues and non-discriminatory visa free access to the Turkish territory for the citizens of all EU Member States. Pending this, adequate implementation of existing bilateral readmission agreements and provisions contained in similar agreements between Turkey and EU Member States, as well as reinforced management of the common borders with all EU Member States, remain a priority. The Council looks forward to the Commission’s forthcoming reports on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap, in 2016.

In line with the Negotiating Framework and previous European Council and Council conclusions, the Council reiterates that Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the Union expresses once again serious concern, and urges Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions, which damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Moreover, the EU stresses again all the sovereign rights of EU Member States. This includes, inter alia, the right to enter into bilateral agreements and to explore and exploit natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and also stresses the need to respect the sovereignty of Member States over their territorial sea and airspace. The Council recalls that the European Council, in its conclusions of 24 October 2014, expressed serious concern about the renewed tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and urged Turkey to show restraint and to respect Cyprus’ sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.

Recalling its conclusions of 11 December 2006 and the declaration of 21 September 2005, the Council notes with deep regret that Turkey, despite repeated calls, continues refusing to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement towards all Member States, the fulfilment of which could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process. In the absence of progress on this issue, the Council will maintain t made progress towards the necessary normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus. The Council recalls its position on accession of EU Member States to international organisations. The Council reiterates that recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the accession process. The Council invites the Commission to continue to monitor closely and specifically report on all issues covered by the declaration of 21 September 2005 in its forthcoming annual report. On this basis, the Council will continue to closely follow and review progress made, in accordance with its relevant conclusions. The Council reiterates its call for progress without any further delay

The Council welcomes the engagement by the parties to the settlement of the Cyprus problem, as demonstrated in the joint declaration of 11 February 2014, and as reaffirmed by the statement of 30 October 2015. Noting the recent encouraging developments over the past year, and as emphasised by the Negotiating Framework, the Council expects Turkey to actively support the negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded. Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to such a comprehensive settlement remains crucial.

Invitation letter by President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council

In September we crafted a comprehensive strategy how to deal with the migratory crisis, but its implementation is still lagging behind. We need to speed up on all fronts, including the protection of the EU’s external borders. Our goal is clear: we must regain control over our external borders to stem migratory flows and to preserve Schengen. This is why at our October meeting we put the above issue at the top of our agenda and asked the Commission to table proposals aimed at enhancing the mandate of Frontex and improving the management of the EU’s external borders. Our meeting will be the first occasion to react to the Commission’s package in this respect.

Besides the debate on the future solutions, we must manage the ongoing crisis with the tools we have in hand. Frontex needs to be in a position to make checks of all the relevant databases, including security checks, be it SIS or Europol. In response to the Greek government’s request for assistance in the form of a Rapid Border Intervention Team, Member States and EU institutions will need to do everything in their power to assist Greece in this challenging task. The security of the EU’s external border has until now been too low, with only 20% of refugees and migrants intercepted upon reaching the shores in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The protection of our external borders is not intended to scare off those who flee wars or persecution. Europe is a community of freedom and will always provide shelter for those in danger.

The debate on migration will follow our traditional exchange with the President of the European Parliament.

During dinner we will discuss the UK issue, to see if we can pave the way for an agreement in February. As I set out in my letter, we have achieved significant progress in negotiations; however we are still far from an agreement on several topics. This Thursday we will need to focus especially on the most controversial ones. The stakes are so high that we cannot escape a serious debate with no taboos.

We will resume our European Council on Friday morning with an in-depth discussion on the follow-up to the Five Presidents’ report on Economic and Monetary Union. There is no time for complacency in reforming the Eurozone. We need to further strengthen the Banking Union and improve economic governance. The President of the ECB will join us for this debate.

We will also adopt conclusions on the Internal Market, on Energy and Climate change. Afterwards, we will discuss the fight against terrorism. The emphasis must be placed on better information-sharing so that our authorities can make full use of the available information in combatting the terrorist threat. We will finish by adopting conclusions on Syria.

Finally, let me also take this opportunity to inform you that I have asked the Presidency to put on the agenda of COREPER this coming Friday the proposal to roll over sanctions on Russia for another 6 months. This will be the direct consequence of the March European Council conclusion, according to which the duration of the restrictive measures against the Russian Federation should be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements

Migration

The European Council will discuss the ongoing refugee crisis. The debate is likely to focus mainly on implementation of the various actions and tools that have been put in place aimed to better manage the migratory flows.
Leaders are expected to address shortcomings and call for urgent action on external border control, hotspots, the registration process, relocation, resettlement and return. The European Council is also expected to call for implementation and operational follow-up to the High Level Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean – Western Balkans route, the Valletta Summit and the EU-Turkey Action Plan.
The European Council is also expected to call on the Council to rapidly examine the Commission proposals of 15 December 2015, including on a European Border and Coast Guard and the Schengen Borders Code.

Fight against terrorism

In the light of the Paris attacks of 13 November, the European Council will discuss the EU’s and its member states’ fight against terrorism. Leaders are expected to call for the urgent implementation of the measures agreed at the Special European Council in February 2015. The heads of state and government should also underline the importance and urgency of improving information sharing. In this context, focus is likely to be on the effective and systematic use of various European and international databases. Furthermore, leaders are expected to call on the Council and the Commission to identify and examine further ways to combat terrorism, including on terrorist financing and banning of high-powered semi-automatic weapons. Leaders should also ask the EU to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation with partners. The recent agreement between the co-legislators on the use of passenger name record (PNR) data is likely to be welcomed.

Syria

Finally, the European Council is expected to express support for the efforts of the International Syria Support Group to end the conflict in Syria, and the efforts of the Global Coalition to defeat the global threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh. [Full agenda]

More info:

§ La Commission présente une recommandation relative à l’établissement d’un programme d’admission humanitaire volontaire en association avec la Turquie en faveur des réfugiés syriens [FR] [EN] [DE] [NL]

§ Securing Europe’s External Borders [EN]

§ Borders Package [EN]

§ Agenda européen en matière de migration: rapports sur l’avancement des mesures mises en œuvre en Grèce, en Italie et dans les Balkans occidentaux [FR] [EN] [DE] [NL]

§ New EU projects in the areas of Migration and Asylum [EN]

§ L’UE va annoncer de nouvelles décisions visant à mieux gérer la migration et à s’attaquer aux causes profondes de la migration irrégulière et des déplacements forcés [FR] [EN] [DE]

§ Faire face à la crise des réfugiés: état d’avancement des mesures [FR] [EN] [DE] [NL]

§ Un corps européen de gardes-frontières et de gardes-côtes pour protéger les frontières extérieures de l’Europe [FR] [EN] [DE] [NL]

§ New EU support for reform efforts in Armenia [detail]

§ EU provides €30 million to support reform efforts in Armenia [detail]

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