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EU – Turkey Relations : On the agenda of the EP April Session

MEPs will discuss the state of play in Turkey, in particular the upcoming referendum, during the April plenary in Strasbourg.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs calls on the Committee on International Trade, as the committee responsible, to incorporate 11 suggestions into its motion for a resolution inter alia;

The modernisation and effective implementation of the Customs Union will further strengthen the already strong economic ties between Turkey and the European Union and will keep Turkey economically anchored to the EU;

Contribute to both sides engaging in a positive reform agenda while mitigating political tensions with Ankara on the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in the country;

Because; democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms; EU-Turkey trade relations are and must remain based on mutual respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; Include a clause on human rights and fundamental freedoms in the upgraded C U making them a key conditionality;

The C U can only reach its full potential if Turkey fully implements the Additional Protocol vis-à-vis all Member States; Turkey continue not to open Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels and failed to apply to Cyprus the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement;

The C U cannot be considered a direct or indirect replacement of accession talks;

Upgraded Customs Union could help Turkey to overcome the challenges it faces, and contribute to stabilising Turkey and providing growth for its citizens, if the necessary reforms are made by the government and Turkey returns to the path of democracy and the restoration of the rule of law;

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EU- Turkey : Anatomy of a difficult relationship!

“Unacceptable.” President Antonio Tajani was clear this week [Full Speech] in his condemnation of Turkey accusing Germany and the Netherlands of Nazi methods for preventing Turkish ministers from campaigning in their countries in favour of a referendum to give the president additional powers. Although the EU and Turkey cooperate on anything from trade to migration, relations have become strained in recent year. Read on for an overview of the current state of affairs. [Watch the video to find out more]

Turkey has hit out at Germany and the Netherlands for not allowing a campaign on the referendum. Parliament President Antonio Tajani tweeted on Monday: “It is unacceptable that the President of Turkey referred to Nazism in relation to a democratic country. Germany fully guarantees all fundamental freedoms and with these comments, Erdogan offends all Europeans.”

EU membership

Turkey has been a candidate since 1999, but last November MEPs adopted a resolution [Freeze EU accession talks with Turkey until it halts repression]asking for the negotiations to be temporarily suspended while repression continues in Turkey: “Turkey is not showing this political will as the government’s actions are further diverting Turkey from its European path.”

During a plenary debate in March 2017, Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian leader of the Alde group, [Geler les négociations d’adhésion avec la Turquie maintenant] accused Turkey’s President Erdoğan of cynicism for advocating “freedom of speech” while journalists are imprisoned in Turkey. “Let’s freeze the negotiations on Turkey’s accession now, this is the only thing we can do now.”

MEPs are concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation. The foreign affairs committee went on a fact-finding mission [Handling of aftermath of coup attempt is a crucial test] to Turkey last August. Elmar Brok, who was chair at the time, said developments have taken Turkey farther away from the EU.” MEPs have also debated the situation in Turkey in plenary on several occasions. [Freeze EU accession talks with Turkey]

Migration

In March 2016 the EU and Turkey concluded an agreement to tackle the migration crisis. The deal led to significantly fewer migrants reaching Europe illegally, however Turkey has threatened several times to suspend it, accusing the EU of not living up to its commitments.

MEPs have criticised several aspects of the agreements. During a meeting of the civil liberties committee in January Dutch EPP member Jeroen Lenaers said: “If we want to get it to work we need to make sure the conditions for hosting refugees are much better.” [Karşılıklı Açıklamalarla Gerginleşen Diplomatik Ortam]

Trade

The EU is by far Turkey’s largest export market (44.5%), while Turkey is the EU’s fourth largest export market (4.4%). Last December the European Commission proposed updating the customs union with Turkey and extending bilateral trade relations. Once negotiations have been completed, the agreement would still have to be approved by the Parliament before it could enter into force.

MEPs will discuss the state of play in Turkey, in particular the upcoming referendum, during the April plenary in Strasbourg. [Source]

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AFET’s Opinion: [DE] + [FR] + [NL]

The Committee on Foreign Affairs calls on the Committee on International Trade, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions into its motion for a resolution:

1. Notes that the Customs Union between Turkey and the European Union came into force in 1995 and has since remained unchanged, while changes in the world economy and technological advances have fundamentally changed the global trading landscape;

2. Welcomes, therefore, the initiative to update the Customs Union to reflect these changes by broadening the scope to include more sectors, such as services and agricultural products, and to address current shortcomings in the Customs Union by looking to include new rules on, for example, trade and sustainable development, energy and raw materials and dispute settlement;

3. Welcomes the greater transparency within the Commission and the increased role of Parliament in relation to the negotiation of international agreements, and supports the Commission’s transparency initiative, particularly in respect of trade agreements;

4. Stresses that the modernisation and effective implementation of the Customs Union will further strengthen the already strong economic ties between Turkey and the European Union and will keep Turkey economically anchored to the EU; stresses that Turkey has continued not to open Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels and has failed to apply to Cyprus the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement; regrets that Turkey does not fully fulfil its obligations required by the EU and recalls that the Customs Union can only reach its full potential if Turkey fully implements the Additional Protocol vis-à-vis all Member States; believes that strengthening trade relations could bring concrete benefits to citizens in Turkey and EU Member States, as shown in studies and impact assessments, and also contribute to both sides engaging in a positive reform agenda while mitigating political tensions with Ankara on the deteriorating situation of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in the country;

5. Recalls that external policies, including trade policy, must contribute to protecting and promoting the values upheld by the EU, as defined in Article 2 of the TEU, such as democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, fundamental rights and fundamental freedoms; emphasises that EU-Turkey trade relations are and must remain based on mutual respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; reiterates its concern at the overall situation of democracy and human rights in Turkey;

6. Stresses in this regard that the European Union must take a two-track approach in which negotiation on the modernisation of the Customs Union does not come at the expense of addressing ongoing concerns about the deterioration of the rule of law and the undermining of fundamental freedoms in Turkey; stresses also that the Customs Union cannot be considered a direct or indirect replacement of accession talks;

7. Notes that the upgrade of EU-Turkey trade relations forms an essential part of the efforts made by the EU and Turkey to deepen their relations in key areas of joint interest identified at the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015 and in the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March 2016; states that this is even more important now that the accession talks are stalled, despite the significant short- and long-term strategic interests for both the EU and Turkey;

8. Takes note of Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Russia and the statements of the Turkish Government regarding the country’s possible accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; reiterates that the EU is Turkey’s main trading partner and that two thirds of foreign direct investment in Turkey comes from EU Member States; emphasises that the Customs Union requires Turkey to align its legislation with the acquis communautaire; recalls the finding from the 2016 report on Turkey that duty relief, tariff-free zones, surveillance measures and management of tariff quotas are not fully in line with the acquis; notes the Commission’s conclusion that further trade integration with the EU would be stimulated by Turkey’s elimination of impediments to the functioning of the Customs Union; envisages that the legislative alignment will benefit EU companies investing in or trading with Turkey, which will, in turn, promote growth and jobs both in the EU and Turkey;

9. Underlines the growing geopolitical and economic challenges facing Turkey as a result of instability in its neighbourhood, terrorism and the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016; stresses that while the chaos and instability in the Middle East and the Russian annexation of Crimea and intervention in Ukraine are adversely affecting Turkey’s foreign trade within its neighbourhood, an upgraded Customs Union could help Turkey to overcome the challenges it faces, and contribute to stabilising Turkey and providing growth for its citizens, if the necessary reforms are made by the government and Turkey returns to the path of democracy and the restoration of the rule of law;

10. Notes that Turkish regulatory alignment with EU standards resulting from the conclusion of the Customs Union has increased trade between the EU and Turkey; believes that the modernisation of the Customs Union would provide an opportunity for Turkey to revisit its growth model and escape from the ‘middle income (country) trap’; hopes that the deepening of the Customs Union could have a positive influence on Turkey’s economic governance and strengthen Turkey’s independent regulatory institutions;

11. Emphasises that the EU is founded on the values of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights; calls on the Commission to include a clause on human rights and fundamental freedoms in the upgraded Customs Union between Turkey and the EU, making human rights and fundamental freedoms a key conditionality.

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Related:

§ [Trade with Turkey (Commission page)]

§ [Reinvigorating EU-Turkey bilateral trade: Upgrading the customs union]

§ [ EUTurkey: time for more dialogue and cooperation]

§ [Migration top story]

§ [European Parliament delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee]

§ [Bringing EU-Turkey trade and investment relations up to date?]

§ [Committee on International Trade : Towards a new trade framework between the EU and Turkey and the modernisation of the Customs Union – AMENDMENTS 1 – 190]

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