During the votes on the annual Turkey's progress report in the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake MEP (ALDE/D66) flagged the importance of guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Schaake underlines the importance of the accession process of Turkey to the EU: "Despite my criticism, I believe the accession process is the best instrument to improve democracy and human rights in Turkey." The Turkish people will benefit from democratic reforms in their country first and foremost, and so will the EU. Criticism Earlier this week Schaake expressed her concerns about the sentencing of the well-known Turkish pianist Fazil Say for posting tweets in which he criticized religion. Additionally Turkey has jailed more journalists than any other country in the world. "Criticism of religion and politics is increasingly punished, and the Turkish judiciary risks losing its independence. Universal rights such as freedom of expression, press freedom and the rule of law itself are under pressure. In an atmosphere of fear people even apply self-censorship, that is unacceptable", Schaake states. Reforms Turkey has a rapidly growing economy and is an important trading partner to the EU. On top of that, its strategic location makes Turkey a key ally for NATO and the EU. "The European accession criteria offer the best instruments for pushing for the implementation of promised reforms. For that reason, it is not wise to close the door to Turkey's EU accession. The EU must encourage meaningful democratic and judicial reforms. It is up to the Turkish Government to pick up the gauntlet and take their responsibility.''