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MEPs: only concrete human rights actions can help improve Turkey relations with the EU

Final statement

A delegation of subcommittee on human rights members visited Turkey (Ankara and Istanbul) on 17-19 September. The delegation was led by Marietje Schaake. Please find the final statement here below:

In meetings with various parliament and government representatives, members of the European Parliament listened to renewed ambitions to strengthen Turkey’s ties with the EU. Despite a deeply polarized political landscape, opposition and civil society organisations agreed with the Turkish officials who say they do not wish to see Turkey moving further away from Europe.   

MEPs expressed solidarity when it comes to the challenges people in Turkey face and said:  

“While we acknowledge the right to bring the perpetrators of the 2016 failed coup-attempt to justice, we stress the presumption of innocence and the need to respect fair trial standards. While understanding the need to fight terrorism, we urge Turkey to do so while respecting universal human rights such as press freedom and anti-torture guarantees. While appreciating the shelter that Turkey, notably through the active involvement of civil society organisations, offers to Syrian refugees, we underline the need to prevent child exploitation. Respect for the rule of law will also help calm the sliding of the lira”.  

Members further stressed that human rights must remain at the heart of the EU’s priorities for relations with Turkey:  

“It is no secret that Turkey's respect for the rule of law has been decreasing. The list of human rights concerns the European Parliament has highlighted consistently remains long and has effectively frozen the accession process. In order for trust to be rebuilt, concrete actions are needed. Notwithstanding the significant challenges in the relationship, there is an understanding that both Turkey and the EU need each other”, members of the delegation stated.   

“Only concrete improvements when it comes to respect for the rule of law and human rights can convince us that there is a true commitment. The pre-trial detention of people without allegations against them, the massive dismissal of civil servants with limited redress options or the stifling of speech are deeply disturbing and must be addressed swiftly and adequately. We urge Turkey to fully respect the rights of the LGTBI community and other minorities. Turkey must improve the respect for the rule of law in its own interest first and foremost, in line with the international obligations that it subscribes to, they conclude.                                            

The findings of the delegation's visit will feed into Parliament’s work on drafting the new instrument for the pre-accession assistance (IPA) budget, ongoing work on trade, security as well as in other policy areas towrads Turkey.    

The delegation of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament was led by MEP Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL), and included MEPs Soraya Post (S&D, Sweden) and MEP Wajid Khan (S&D, UK). The delegation met with numerous civil society actors, parliamentarians, international organizations, and ministers (Interior, Justice, Foreign affairs). (Programme can be found here).