The European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, Kati Piri (S&D, NL), said if yes-voters prevail in an April 16 referendum in Turkey, the EU will have to make its own assessment on the compatibility of the new governance structure with the Copenhagen criteria.
“The upcoming report by the Venice Commission will provide an important basis for that evaluation,” said Piri in a statement made on Thursday after a fact-finding mission to Turkey Feb. 20-23.
Piri met with the Turkish deputy prime minister, members of parliament and civil society representatives to discuss the country’s progress in EU-related reforms, as she is to draft the EP’s resolution on Turkey.
Piri said that in all the meetings she had, the upcoming referendum on the constitutional reform package was a recurring theme.
“In this regard, I was glad to hear that the government invited the OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] to send monitors to observe the process. With such a possible fundamental change in the country’s governance structure, it is of crucial importance that the public is well-informed and [that] both supporters and opponents of a presidential system have the possibility to put forward their arguments,” added Kati Piri.
“The Turkish population is going through a difficult period: from numerous terrorist attacks, a war in neighbouring Syria, a coup attempt that killed 250 people, followed by a state of emergency that left many citizens deprived of their constitutional rights to challenge their dismissals and arrests,” she said in the statement.
“While the challenges the country is facing today would be difficult for any government, the European Parliament, together with the UN and the Council of Europe, has on several occasions expressed its concern about the serious curtailment of fundamental rights,” Piri added.
Recalling the EP decision that called for a temporary freeze of accession talks until the state of emergency is lifted and the government returns to democracy and adherence to the Turkish constitution, Piri also noted that in the coming weeks the EP will give a green light to the start of negotiations on modernizing the customs union.
“Despite the recent tense relations between Ankara and Brussels, I hope we can move forward in the coming months on important matters, such as the visa liberalisation process, the joint fight against terrorism and in bringing the war in Syria finally to an end.”
Expressing the fact that the EP’s main focus in assessing a candidate country’s accession process is the respect of fundamental rights, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, the rapporteur said: “In this regard, Turkey will have to show real progress in the coming time in living up to the commitments it has made when it became a candidate for EU membership. If it does it will find a strong ally in the European Parliament, which has always been a strong supporter of the accession process.”