Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, has said it would be wrong to connect Sweden’s entry to NATO and the process for Turkey gaining membership in the European Union, in an interview with Deutsche Welle Turkish service on Thursday.
Earlier this week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a green light to Sweden’s entry to the alliance, after saying at the last moment that he would only back Sweden’s NATO candidacy if the EU resumes long-stalled membership talks with Ankara.
Turkey first applied to be a member of the European Economic Community — the predecessor of the EU — in 1987.
It became an EU candidate country in 1999 and formally launched membership negotiations with the bloc in 2005.
The talks stalled over European concerns about human rights violations that came in the midst of a sweeping crackdown Erdoğan launched after surviving a failed 2016 military coup.
Amor told DW that it is not possible for him to support linking Sweden’s NATO membership to Turkey’s EU membership since the latter depends on Turkey fulfilling a set of principles, known as the Copenhagen political criteria, such as respect for human rights, a well-functioning democracy and institutions and the rule of law guaranteed through free and independent courts.
Amor said a country lacking true democracy cannot become a member of the EU and that Turkey and President Erdoğan are well aware that there is no shortcut to this and know what needs to be done.
He added that human rights organizations worldwide have been saying for years that the Turkish government should release Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, philanthropist Osman Kavala and mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), put an end to the oppression against LGBT activists, refrain from interfering with media freedom and stop imposing penalties on the press and social media.
When asked whether he has any faith left that the Turkish government would bridge the existing and deepening gap between Turkey and the EU in terms of values and norms, Amor said they have completely lost faith, not in civil society but in the ruling party and President Erdoğan.
Amor, who stated that if there is a change in the political will in Turkey, the European Parliament would support its accession process, also added that he hasn’t seen any indication of President Erdoğan making changes in this regard in domestic politics.
The rapporteur also spoke about visa liberalization, stating that the Turkish public has been misled for years regarding this issue and that Turkey should fulfill the remaining six of the 72 criteria the has EU proposed for visa-free travel.
Amor stated that among the remaining issues, the two most important ones are reassessing legislation on terrorism in line with EU standards and complying with the same standards on personal data legislation.
He said if Turkey fulfills its obligations regarding the remaining six criteria, they will fulfill their obligation regarding visa liberalization.