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No reforms in Turkey, but regression in human rights, rule of law: EP rapporteur

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Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, has said no changes or reforms have been carried out in Turkey to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria but that there has been instead a complete regression in human rights and the rule of law, the Euronews Turkish service reported on Thursday.

Speaking to Euronews about Turkey-European Union relations, Amor said Ankara’s membership negotiations, which started in 2005, have not contributed to the development of democracy in Turkey.

“If the accession process is not functional, and in my view, is becoming dysfunctional, we really need to look for another format,” Amor said.

Earlier this month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a green light to Sweden’s entry to NATO, 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 said the move to link the accession of Sweden to NATO to the accession of Turkey to the EU was “completely unexpected,” adding that it’s “not possible” since they are two different organizations with two different rationales.

“NATO … is about military and security. The EU is still a club of democracies. At the core of the accession process, every country has to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria,” Amor said, adding that it has been assessed in several reports, including his, that there’s no political will in Turkey to conduct the country as a full-fledged democracy.

The Copenhagen political criteria refers to a set of principles, such as respect for human rights, a well-functioning democracy and institutions and the rule of law guaranteed through free and independent courts, that Turkey’s EU membership depends on.

When asked whether the EU made any new promise to Turkey in return for Sweden’s NATO accession, Amor said they appreciated Erdoğan’s move politically and are happy that the veto has been lifted but can’t bargain since the EU membership criteria have nothing to do with Sweden’s NATO accession.

The rapporteur also talked about the reasons behind the lack of progress regarding the issues of modernization of the EU-Turkey customs union and visa liberalization, saying it’s due to six of the 72 criteria the EU has proposed for visa-free travel that the Turkish government has failed to address.

“Two of them are relevant. The scope of the concept of terrorism in the anti-terror law and data protection. But I haven’t heard that the government sent this reform to parliament in the last year,” Amor added.

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