EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should be decoupled from the EU accession negotiating process, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a report voted on Wednesday (15 March).
The appeal comes ahead of the 17-18 March EU summit, during which EU heads of state and government will try to finalise a deal with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to stem the flow of refugees coming from Turkish territory to the EU.
EU leaders are ready to offer Turkey money, visa liberalisation and the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations, in exchange for a commitment that Turkey will take back all asylum seekers leaving its territory for the Greek islands.
At the 7 March EU-Turkey summit, which proved to be inconclusive, European Parliament President Martin Schulz insisted on separating the issue of opening new chapters from the refugee deal.
“EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should not be linked to the calendar, content and conditionality of the negotiation process,” MEPs say in the report.
Lawmakers praise Turkey for hosting the largest refugee population in the world, and note that it remains a “key strategic partner for the EU” but nonetheless call for progress on rule of law and fundamental values and “a more structured and frequent political dialogue on key thematic issues”.
“The overall pace of reforms in Turkey has not only slowed down but in some key areas, such as freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary, there has been a regression, which is particularly worrying”, said the S&D affiliated rapporteur, Kati Piri, (Partij van de Arbeid, Netherlands). In this report “We also express our concern about the escalation of violence in the southeast of Turkey, which caused almost 400,000 people to leave their houses,” she added.
“Outsourcing the refugee crisis to Turkey is not a credible long-term solution to the problem,” say MEPs. They believe that the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan on refugees and migration management should be implemented immediately, but only as “part of a comprehensive cooperation agenda based on shared responsibility, mutual commitments and delivery”.
Serious backsliding on fundamental freedoms
MEPs urge Turkey to act against the intimidation of journalists in all its forms, condemn its violent and illegal takeover of several newspapers, and highlight its serious backsliding, over the past two years, on freedom of speech, both online and off.
To match the EU’s commitment to the rule of law, fundamental values and freedoms, which are core European values, reforms of the judiciary, justice, freedom and security are urgently needed in Turkey, says the text.
Kurdish peace process
MEPs call for an immediate ceasefire in southeast Turkey and the resumption of the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They urge the Turkish government to shoulder its responsibility to resume negotiations for a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Kurdish issue. The PKK should lay down its arms, abandon terrorist tactics and use peaceful and legal means to voice its expectations, they add.
Cyprus reunification talks
Welcoming the considerable progress made in the Cyprus reunification talks, legislators pledge support for the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus into “a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality between the two communities and equal opportunities for all its citizens”. They urge both parties to implement all agreed measures without further delay.
The report will be voted in plenary in April.