Migration and accession process should be separate issues for Turkey, MEP Piri tells CNA

Migration and accession process should be separate issues for Turkey, MEP Piri tells CNA

Migration crisis and Turkey`s EU accession process are two separate issues and must be addressed in this way by the EU, Rapporteur on Turkey`s EU progress report for Turkey in the European Parliament, Kati Piri, has stressed, adding that a solution to the Cyprus issue would have a positive effect not only for the island, but for the entire region and Europe as well.

In an interview with CNA and the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Havadis, in the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, the Dutch MEP of the Socialists` political group noted the lack of trust that currently exists between the EU and Turkey in dealing with the migration crisis and that they both need each other. She supported the opening of two chapters, in the framework of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, to discuss fundamental rights in the country, criticized the EU`s silence as regards the closure of another Turkish newspaper and the imprisonment of journalists in Turkey, and referred to the bleak picture in the wider region of the Mediterranean.

Kati Piri said that European leaders have a one dimensional dialogue with Turkey and keep silent on domestic developments in the country. She called for a more intensive dialogue, and noted that for 10 years the EP has supported that dialogue with Turkey must cover many subjects. “We can not just talk about how many people arrived to the Greek islands. This is by far one-dimensional compared to the broad dialogue we should have with Turkey,” she noted.

Asked to comment on the EU – Turkey action plan of November 2015, which has not yet been fully implemented, while additional Turkish demands have been accepted by the EU, and whether she trusts Turkey on this issue, Piri said that this is not an issue of trust, but of making agreements and making sure that the two sides stick to them. As regards the EU – Turkey joint action plan, she stressed that after four months, it`s only during this week that we saw the first project not related to the Turkish government, but to the improvement of the lives of refugees. She noted that the discussion on the closure of borders and the pressure on Greece shows that the EU is not really a reliable partner for Turkey. The language used by both sides and the existing environment show that there is still a long way to go before we can have a type of equal partnership, she added. “It is clear that the Turks don’t trust the EU to deliver and the EU doesn’t trust the Turkish government to deliver and at the end of the day we both need each other, so we need to find agreements here,” she added.

Piri praised EP President Martin Schulz`s statement on the issue of freedom of the press, regarding the latest closure of Zaman newspaper, after his meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels, and said that she expects this kind of clear messages to be sent by other EU leaders during their meetings with Turkish officials. “It almost looks like a coincidence that the last time when Can Dundar and Erdogan Gul were arrested was just 2 days before the EU – Turkey summit. Now, again just before the new summit, we see a major crack down on the biggest newspaper in Turkey, on Zaman,” she noted.

Answering another question, she said that many people in Turkey have expressed to her their disappointment for the way the negotiations with the EU are going on “because, let`s be honest, the reason why the accession process for the last 10 years was not going rapidly has nothing to do with the domestic developments in Turkey. It had to do with the domestic political developments in individual member states, namely we remember President Sarkozy in France when certain chapters were blocked and of course with Counsellor Merkel from Germany. So I understand the feeling that people say that this is not a merit based process but its a political process,” she noted.

That`s why she is happy that during the last year there has been a more intensive dialogue with Turkey, which should be completely unrelated with the migration question, Piri stressed. She said that she does not want to send the message, either to the European citizens or to the Turkish citizens, that if Turkey cooperates with the EU on the migration issue this will be a step forward in its accession process, because this does not build trust for the accession process.

Asked how they will overcome the veto of the Republic of Cyprus on two chapters, 23 and 24, of Turkey`s negotiating process, the opening of which she suggests in her report, Piri stressed that this is her own opinion, and not that of the EP. It`s an issue on which the political groups disagree, but they agree that Turkey should be given the benchmarks which are to be met before any chapter can be opened. Whether we are happy or unhappy, like we are now, with certain reforms in Turkey, I think that the most crucial one is to open these two chapters and to have intensive dialogue on fundamental rights, she said. The opening of the two chapters doesn’t mean that Turkey is being awarded or coming closer to membership, she said. “The only thing this would mean is that we want a more intensive dialogue, not only on migration but especially on human rights,” she added.

Referring to the Cyprus problem, Kati Piri said she is ready to visit Cyprus whenever she gets an invitation, and explained that the reason she paid so much attention to this year`s report on the Cyprus issue is that we see a grim picture in the whole neighbourhood of the Middle East and Europe, adding that “this hopeful process in Cyprus, in terms of foreign affairs, will not only be important for the island, but also for Europe. It would be so important to see that the two leaders, the population, can support this process because it can have a positive effect on the whole region,” she noted.

She praised Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades` proposal that the Turkish language becomes one of the EU official languages because it really shows leadership. “It was not an easy decision, some oppositional groups didn`t even like it, but I am also sure that on the Turkish Cypriot side it really meant that they can see their counterpart making efforts in order to really genuinely move this process forward,” she added. She expressed hope that with a final solution to the Cyprus problem, the Turkish language can become one of the EU official languages.

Piri`s progress report on Turkey will be discussed in the EP plenary during the second week of April. Five hundred fifty four amendments have been submitted, 100 of which were submitted by one member of the European Parliament.