Kati Piri, Turkey rapporteur for the European Parliament (EP), in an interview on Tuesday said Turkey’s constitutional amendments in 2017 crossed their red line, and that is how they ended up calling for the suspension of accession talks.
Speaking to the Platform for Peace and Justice (PPJ), Piri reminded that the new constitution was drafted in disregard of the recommendations of the Venice Commission.
“We think that our red line – the one we have been warning Turkey about ever since the coup attempt, and that they did not take seriously – has been crossed, and that is how we have ended up with our position today,” Piri said.
“If Turkey was genuinely committed to wanting to join the EU, it would have been smart to take the EP’s position into consideration, but, clearly, it did not. There has not been a Turkish minister in the EP for the last 3 years. For the last 2 years, the government decided not to have meetings with me, the rapporteur on Turkey. Last time I was there none of the ruling party ministers wanted to meet,” Piri said, adding: “It is quite stupid if you consider that the EP decides on visa liberalization, the upgrade of the Customs Union, the EU’s budget, including the funds for Turkey, etc. It is not a very smart diplomatic move to treat the EP the way that they do.”
Piri was also asked about the European Council’s relative unwillingness compared to the EP so far to tackle human rights violations and the crackdown on the justice system in Turkey and whether it was mainly due to the refugee deal concluded between Turkey and the EU to control the flow of Syrian refugees.
Piri admitted that the deal was an issue, but she also pointed out that EU has “serious democratic deficit issues” within itself, referring to sanctions procedures against Hungary and Poland.
“This is not a parliament which is hostile to Turkey,” Piri said with reference to EP’s stance on Turkey. “When I started as rapporteur, we had a totally different position because, despite the fact that things were already problematic in Turkey, we thought that the EU should use the tools at its disposal, including the opening of chapters, to try to positively influence democratic developments in the country. That did not happen.”
When asked about how influential the EP’s positions have been, the Dutch MEP said: “If you ask me if our position on Turkey’s accession will influence the Council: Yes. But do I think that it is very likely that in June the Council will call for the suspension of the accession talks? No.”
“On the other hand, if a country or government does not really want to become a member of the EU, which is now the case with the current government in Turkey, the EP’s influence is much less important. Because if it does not really care about the EU’s opinion on things, given the fact it does not really want membership (using it only as a rhetoric), the influence of any EU institution, not just the EP, is obviously less effective,” Piri added.
Looking back, Piri admitted that EU made serious mistake in its policy towards Turkey, reaffirming her views expressed to the Hürriyet newspaper in January 2018.
“I think the moment that we allowed Cyprus in without having a solution to the Cyprus problem is the moment we gave up with the unanimity rule of ever finding a good policy on Turkey,” Piri said. “If you have a member state which can and will always block certain strategies with Turkey… I think that is a big mistake.”
Piri also claimed that the EU has always been dishonest about the accession process.
“Even if Turkey were a perfect democracy, Merkel and, for instance, Sarkozy would not want Turkey in the EU. That is the difference with me. I do not think that Turkey does not belong in the EU. In my opinion, it is a European country,” Piri said. “Of course, the EU would need some reforms before being able to take in such a big country, but I think we could do it.”
Piri’s report calling for the suspension of EU accession talks with Ankara was adopted on Feb. 20 by the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs and approved on Wednesday by the Parliament’s general assembly.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry reacted to the report, calling it “devoid of meaning”.