Turkey needs urgent reforms in key areas, say MEPs

EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should be uncoupled from the EU accession negotiating process, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday. MEP praise Turkey for hosting the largest refugee population in the world, and note that it remains a “key strategic partner for the EU” but nonetheless call for progress on rule of law and fundamental values and “a structured and more frequent political dialogue on key thematic issues”.

“The overall pace of reforms in Turkey has not only slowed down but in some key areas, such as freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary, there has been a regression, which is particularly worrying”, said rapporteur Kati Piri (S&D, NL). In this report “we also express our concern about the escalation of violence in the southeast of Turkey, which caused almost 400,000 people to leave their houses,” she added.

“Outsourcing the refugee crisis to Turkey is not a credible long-term solution to the problem”, say MEPs who add that “it is crucial to put in place safe and legal routes for refugees”. They believe that the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan on refugees and migration management should be implemented immediately, but only as “part of a comprehensive cooperation agenda based on shared responsibility, mutual commitments and delivery”. Furthermore, “EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should not be linked to the calendar, content and conditionality of the negotiation process”. “Only a political solution to the Syrian crisis can provide a lasting response to this humanitarian crisis”, says the text.

The resolution was passed by 375 votes to 133, with 87 abstentions.

Serious backsliding on fundamental freedoms

MEPs urge Turkey to act against intimidation of journalists in all its forms, condemn its violent and illegal take-over of several newspapers including Zaman most recently and highlight its serious backsliding, over the past two years, on freedom of speech, expression and opinion, both on-line and off-line.

To match the EU’s commitment to the rule of law and fundamental values, which are core European values, reforms of the judiciary and fundamental rights and of justice, freedom and security are urgently needed in Turkey, says the text.

Kurdish peace process

MEPs call for an immediate ceasefire in southeast Turkey and the resumption of the peace process. They urge the Turkish government to shoulder its responsibility to resume negotiations for a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Kurdish issue. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations, should lay down its arms, abandon terrorist tactics and use peaceful and legal means to voice its expectations, they add.

Cyprus reunification talks

Welcoming the considerable progress made in the Cyprus reunification talks, MEPs pledge support for the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus into “a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality between the two communities and equal opportunities for all its citizens”. They urge both parties to implement all agreed measures without further delay, emphasing that non-settlement of the Cyprus issue affects the development of EU-Turkey relations.

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