22nd Feb 2019

MEPs prepare critical report on Turkey

  • Ankara - EU membership negotiations with Ankara began in October last year (Photo: wikipedia)

Almost a year after Turkey officially opened EU membership talks with Brussels, MEPs are preparing a report strongly critical of the country's progress on human rights issues.

The 11-page draft report, drawn up by Dutch centre-right MEP Camiel Eurlings, says the the European Parliament "deplores the fact that only limited progress has been reported over the last year as regards fundamental rights and freedoms" and "deplores the absence of progress in the area of freedom of religion since parliament's last report."

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It notes in the preamble that "freedom of expression is far from satisfactory" and that "corruption remains a serious problem."

The resolution also stresses that EU member states' negotiations with the country, opened last year in October, represent an "open-ended process and does not lead a priori and automatically to accession."

Managing Turkey

Tapping into a hot discussion held earlier this year on whether the EU will manage to take on board the huge and poor country, the draft also states the "EU's capacity to absorb Turkey while maintaining the momentum of integration is an important consideration…".

The key topic of Ankara's non-recognition of Cyprus also features with the report reminding Turkey that changing this remains a "necessary component of the accession process."

However, it does also note some positive aspects of Turkey's EU efforts saying that it "welcomes the adoption of the law on internally placed people" and "recognises the improvements in legislation … as regards the policy of zero tolerance towards torture."

The report, which appears annually, is causing the usual ripples in the EU assembly with MEPs proposing 343 amendments - around 115 pages. Currently, they are trying to forge agreement on eight pages of "compromise amendments."

MEPs from across the political spectrum are trying to get their view point into the report with comments on the new anti-terror laws in Turkey, on honour killings, on the genocide in Armenia and on changing the electoral threshold for representation in the parliament.

The Cyprus issue

The report is due to be voted on in the foreign affairs committee on Monday (4 September) and will then be put before the whole of the parliament, probably in late September.

The parliament is keen to get its vote and opinion on the table as quickly as possible so it can influence the European Commission's annual report on Turkey's accession progress - due out on 26 October.

For its part, the commission's report is set to be highly critical of Ankara's continued refusal to implement the Ankara protocol with the EU having repeatedly urged Turkey to lift its embargo on Cypriot-flagged vessels and aircraft as part of the country's membership negotiations.

Turkey's signature of the protocol extending a customs accord with the EU to the bloc's 10 new states - including Cyprus - should result in the embargo being lifted.

Ankara has indicated that any concessions to Nicosia would be dependent on moves by the EU to end the economic isolation of the Turkish-populated north of Cyprus – a stance Brussels has rejected.

A critical report by Brussels and continued resistance by Ankara on the Cyprus issue is set to bring the whole issue to a political head later this autumn.

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