Schulz: Parliament committed to to EU-Turkey deal
European Parliament President Martin Schulz has re-stated the EU's commitment to granting visa-free access to Europe for Turkish citizens.
Martin Schulz and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
Speaking during a one-day visit to Ankara on Thursday, the German MEP said he had "reiterated the Parliament's continued willingness" to commit to the terms of the 18 March EU-Turkey agreement.
This includes visa liberalisation, "on the condition that the required benchmarks are fulfilled."
Schulz, who had a meeting with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara, added, "Parliament remains a committed supporter in advancing and deepening EU-Turkey relations."
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Turkey has criticised its European counterparts for not visiting following the events of 15 July, when members of the armed forces sought to overthrow the government, leading to the death of more than 260 people
Schulz is the first senior EU political figure to visit the country since the botched coup.
The Socialist deputy reiterated that the EU wants to see changes to Turkey's anti-terrorism law, which it considers too harsh. However, differences over the issue do not mean a deal to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to Europe will fail, he added.
Turkey has long waited for EU membership and the country has had the status of an associate member at the Economic Community - the predecessor of the EU since 1963.
Erdoğan has said that if the EU cancels the visa agreement, Ankara will not be able to receive illegal migrants from the EU adding that the EU still has not paid €3bn allocated for maintenance of refugees.
In a statement, Schulz "firmly and clearly" condemned the attempted coup, adding that Parliament's support for democracy in Turkey "remains unequivocal."
Schulz said, "The attempt against democracy was paramount and required exceptional measures to safeguard the democratic institutions. Yet the exceptional nature of the measures and of the state of emergency should not fail the test of proportionality and of the rule of law.
"We must also always remember, in Europe and beyond, that democracy is much more than the simple act of voting: democratic standards require pluralism, a vibrant press, a separation of power and free parliamentarians with an independent mandate."
Schulz's trip follows visits to Turkey by US Vice President Joe Biden, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak in recent weeks.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner in charge of EU accession, are expected in Ankara on 9 September for talks.
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