EU Parliament chief to visit Turkey amid ongoing tension

European Parliament President Martin Schulz will visit Turkey on Thursday amid criticism of Ankara’s post-coup policy from MEPs.

Turkey | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

31 Aug 2016

The German Socialist deputy will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara to discuss what many see as the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country since the recent failed coup.

The one-day visit comes after Turkey comes amid growing concerns from MEPs on the respect of human rights and the rule of law, following a coup attempt on 15 July.

Several members of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee voiced concerns at a meeting on Tuesday.


Members assessed the results of last week’s fact-finding mission to Turkey by the committee Chair and rapporteur and stressed the need for constant monitoring.

Committee Chair Elmar Brok, a German member, said, “Turkey has gone through a shock. There are indications that since 2013, the Gulen movement put into motion more than was realised. This is a group which over the decades has developed the style of a secret alliance.”

Last week, Brok and Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri met Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and other members of Turkey’s government during a delegation visit to the country.

Committee members said that the aftermath of the failed coup attempt will be a crucial test for the state of the country’s democracy. 

Brok, an EPP group member, said that during the visit last week, the delegation condemned the coup attempt but said that “even before the coup d’état in Turkey, developments as regards the freedom of opinion were not acceptable and took Turkey farther away from EU”.

Piri, a Socialist Dutch member, told the meeting that the “traumatic” effect of the coup attempt on Turkish society should not be underestimated.

She referred to the shelling of the Turkish Parliament, the arrest of journalists and the killing of more than 200 civilians. But the aftermath of the coup attempt involved “the arrest of thousands of people who definitely were not involved in the coup”, she added.

“The rule of law, including access to lawyers and fair trials, must be respected and this will be a crucial test for democracy in Turkey,” said Piri.

The committee agreed that the EU should monitor the rule of law and human rights situation in Turkey more closely, with some asking for clearer evidence that the Gülen movement may have been behind the coup.

Even though some MEPs felt that “this” Turkey could not become a member of the EU, others argued for opening chapter 23 and 24 - dealing with justice, freedom and security - in order to facilitate dialogue with Turkey on democracy.

Some MEPs said that although they supported the EU-Turkey migration deal, Parliament could only give the green light to the visa liberalisation, which is part of the deal, once all of the 72 benchmarks have been met.

Maltese Socialist member Costas Mavrides, a member of the EU-Turkey joint parliamentary committee, said: “The political situation for democracy in Turkey has become worse every year and is even worse since the coup attempt. This highlights that there is a need for change.” 

Mavrides warned that the EU cannot “keep sticking to the same recipe” with Turkey and a new policy needs to be adopted, including removal of Turkey’s troops from Cyprus’ “occupied” areas.

EU officials were quick to condemn the recent coup, but have also expressed concern over the subsequent crackdown that led to the detention of thousands of people in a high-level purge of the military and civil service.

The developments have strained ties between the EU and Turkey - a potential membership candidate which is also playing a key role in stemming migration flows into Europe, under an agreement struck in March.

The migration deal has come under threat, however, amid a row over visa-free travel concessions that Brussels had offered Ankara.

Last Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim repeated calls for the visa-free travel regime to be in place by October, warning that a collapse of the migration deal risked creating a "major regional problem that will include Europe too."

Schulz will meet Erdoğan at the Presidential palace in Ankara and will also meet Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey İsmail Kahraman, as well as representatives of the four parliamentary groups of the Turkish Parliament.

Ahead of the visit, Schulz said, “The European Union’s commitment to democracy, democratic values and the rule of law in Turkey was, is and will remain unwavering. My visit aims to pay tribute to all the Turkish citizens who courageously took to the streets to defend democracy in the country.

“I also aim to set the political dialogue on the right footing once again and openly discuss all relevant issues related to our bilateral and regional cooperation: from security to the refugee crisis. Turkey is a candidate country and a strategic partner of the EU: we need to talk to each other rather than at each other in order to productively tackle the momentous challenges we are confronted with.”

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