Chairman Speech

EU-Turkey relations

22.11.2016 - 16:30

Dear President, dear Commissioner Hahn, dear colleagues! In July, we had the attempted coup, and it was impressive to see the civil society in Turkey standing up, fighting for the rule of law, for democracy, for a world without military leadership, in partnership with the politicians in Turkey.

Turkey can be proud that it succeeded in defending democracy and the rule of law against the military. We might self-critically say that maybe we didn’t show enough support for the powers that be in Turkey.

But those who defend the rule of law, must implement it now. We are at this point right now. For our EPP Group, it is obvious: We respect Turkey. We want a stable Turkey, we want a democratic Turkey.

In my speech today, I would like to remember a great Turk, namely Atatürk. ‘Peace at home - peace in the world’ was one of the phrases he coined. Another one of his phrases was ‘Sovereignty shouldn’t be built on fear. Sovereignty that rests only on weapons cannot be sustained.’ This is the message to Turkey now: do not to argue with our European values, but focus on internal Turkish arguments, what Turkish tradition represents.

Respect is a vital term, respect for your own people. The coup was a crime against the Turkish population, and the mastermind behind it must be condemned. But the coup must not be misused now.

Respect for other opinions. Turkey was always strong when it was permissive. But since the coup, 110,000 Turks have been removed from office in politics and administration, 36,000 people have been arrested, 138 parliamentarians have had their immunity lifted. Today, according to the Rule of Law index, Turkey has fallen behind Iran and Myanmar. 170 media outlets have been closed.

Respect for partners: Turkey is a reliable NATO partner and therefore we count on its partnership in this area. Turkey is also a reliable trade partner and therefore it is surprising that it is threatening to build partnerships with China and Russia and play them off against Europe. Respect for your partners then takes a different shape.

And lastly: respect for your own long-term interests. Turkey needs Europe. The EU wants good relations. There are 10 times more Turkish exports to Europe than to China and Russia together. Today, the European Union pays €650m to Turkey to support the local economy and administration. Now we are seeing that Turkish growth is coming to a virtual standstill.

This is the situation of the last few days, weeks, months, and it is an upsetting situation. Federica Mogherini, our Commission Vice-President and High Representative, also expressed this. But now, it is up to us to make things clear. Of course, this means for us that we cannot idly stand by and watch. We cannot do business as usual and just carry on.

This is why my Group supports the demand to freeze the existing accession talks in the first instance, not stop them - I expressively want to highlight: not stop them - but to give a clear signal that at the moment, we cannot conduct further talks with a Turkey which is in such a state. We must also make it clear that someone who decides to introduce the death penalty cannot become a member of the European Union. For our part, we must put this in plain language.

My point is not to accuse. My point is that we call on Turkey as a friend, as a partner, not to continue down the path it is taking today, in the interest of its own Turkish citizens, not in a primarily European interest, but because for Turkey, it is the wrong path.

(Translation from the original German)

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