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EP rapporteur slams human rights situation in Turkey

European Parliament Strasbourg Hemicycle Diliff

The European Parliament cannot envisage a resumption of negotiations for the accession of Turkey into the EU without clear and significant progress in the field of rule of law and fundamental rights, according to the progress report adopted by the plenary in Strasbourg on Tuesday, with 448 votes in favour, 67 against and 107 abstentions out of a total of 662 votes.

Although it is noted there has been a “slight improvement” in relations over the past year, increased cooperation in some areas coexists with regular conflicts, as relations remain difficult with neighbouring EU member states, particularly Greece and Cyprus.

The resolution condemns the harassment of research vessels in the Cypriot EEZ as well as the country’s violation of UNSC resolutions on Varosha. Turkey is also urged to allow the TC community the space to fulfil its role as a community on the island and the Republic of Cyprus to facilitate the strengthening of TC relations with the EU.

As noted, Turkey remains a country of strategic importance and a partner for the stability of the region and an ally, especially in the context of NATO, with whom the EU wishes to seek “the restoration of relations based on dialogue, respect and mutual trust,” the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) reported.

The European Parliament therefore welcomes the statements made by the Turkish authorities at the highest level about the country’s commitment to its European course, but urges the Turkish authorities “to put their words into action and demonstrate this commitment with specific facts and decisions”.

The resolution adds that if conditions allow, the dialogue with the Turkish authorities should continue on the basis of the European Council’s position to engage with the country in a gradual, proportionate and reversible manner.

In relation to the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the European Parliament notes the recent reduction in tensions but also the need to address the problems that remain unresolved. It calls on Turkey and all parties involved to show a collective willingness to negotiate EEZ boundaries, and in this context condemns the harassment by Turkish warships of research vessels carrying out work in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as violations of Greek airspace. The Parliament reiterates its full solidarity with Cyprus and Greece and stresses that Cyprus has the right to exploit its natural resources on the basis of international law, while calling on Turkey to accept that the Republic of Cyprus has the right to the use of its natural resources.

Meanwhile, the rapporteur of the European Parliament’s report on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, said the level of human rights in Turkey is “pathetic”, during a debate on the report on the first day of the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday.

He also spoke of “deliberate regression from the previous situation”.

“I do not believe that Turkey ‘s accession negotiations will survive for the next five years,” he said, adding that the unpredictability of Turkish behaviour is leading Turkey to isolation.

European Vicinity and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varheli said Turkey is still moving away from the EU, adding the European Commission worries about the rule of law and human rights in Turkey and that it will continue to support civil society and democracy in the country.

Varheli also pointed out that the biggest challenge is the unresolved Cyprus issue and called on Turkey to stop provocations in Varosha and return to dialogue. “We call on Turkey to side with the EU on sanctions imposed on Russia,” he said. “Turkey is a key partner, but we cannot justify its setbacks,” he added.

On behalf of the European People’s Party, Georgy Vlad Nistor stated that Ankara is playing a diplomatic and political game and that its actions against Cyprus and Greece “are beyond imagination”.

On behalf of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP, Maria Arena stressed that 87 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey and that students protesting in favour of LGBTQI rights are arrested.

“Turkey is not in line with European democratic principles,” she said. On behalf of the Renew Europe Group, Malik Azmani pointed out that things will get worse as we approach the elections in Turkey. A red line is the Turkish veto to Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, he said, adding that Turkey should not become a tax haven for Russia’s economic interests.

On behalf of the Group of the Greens, Sergei Lagodinsky raised the issue of Turkey’s credibility as a defense partner. In addition, he noted that Turkey’s attitude towards Sweden and Finland is a “solidarity issue”, while he also spoke about Turkey’s aggressive attitude towards EU member states. “We are slowly losing faith in Turkey’s European future,” he added.

On behalf of the Identity and Democracy Group, Nikolaus Fest stressed that things are getting worse for Turkey. At the same time, he raised the question of what else is needed to draw the right conclusions. He also called for a halt to Turkey’s accession talks while Erdogan is in power.

On behalf of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists, Emmanuel Frangos described Turkey as an “extremist state” and suggested that the policy of equal distances is a bomb in the foundations of Europe.

Interventions by the Cypriot MEPs

On behalf of the Left Group in the European Parliament, George Georgiou said that some Europeans pretend to see light in the tunnel of Euro-Turkish relations and place Turkey on the right side of history. He also said that Turkey did in Cyprus, 48 years ago, what Russia did in Ukraine, continues to illegally occupy European territory and is operating in a revisionist manner against Greece. “Over values and law, geopolitical interests and competitions to the detriment of the peoples are paramount,” Georgiou concluded.

Lefteris Christoforou of the European People’s Party said that the EU does not tolerate any invader and should not tolerate Turkey that does not respect any EU values. The EU should not consider the invader as a strategic partner, he concluded.

Loucas Fourlas of the European People’s Party noted that Erdogan’s Turkey has nothing to do with the European edifice. “How much longer will we pretend that Turkey has a place next to democratic European societies?” he asked, adding that if we were serving values rather than interests, we would not even be discussing a progress report on Turkey today.

Demetris Papadakis of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP said that some within the European family want to believe that Turkey respects the human rights of its citizens, does not imprison anyone who disagrees, has good relations with its neighbours, does not provoke tensions and does not occupy European territories by force. Their purpose is to serve the economic interests of their countries, he concluded.

Costas Mavrides of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP, spoke of neo-Ottoman expansionism, indicating that the EU followed the policy of appeasement that feeds the Turkish beast. In Russia, six packages of sanctions were properly imposed, but in Turkey not one, he added. In closing, Mavrides called for a ban on arms sales to Turkey, withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus, and Turkey’s denunciation to the World Trade Organisation.

Niyazi Kizilyurek, GUE/NGL MEP, states that the report’s position regarding Turkish Cypriots is comprehensive. He also points out that this approach to the issue of the Turkish Cypriots is a very positive element, when all parties involved are called upon to show a more courageous attitude towards the rapprochement of the communities and the need to implement the EU acquis throughout the island after the comprehensive resolution of the Cyprus problem.

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