Key European MEPs pay visit to Turkish Parliament

Published 23.11.2018 20:12
Updated 24.11.2018 00:01

The head of the Turkey-EP joint parliamentary commission on Friday received members of the European Parliament's (EP) Turkey Forum in the capital Ankara.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, İsmail Emrah Karayel said that he sees the visit as important amid recent "ups and downs" in Turkish-EU relations. "I'm sure this visit will positively affect Turkey-EU relations as well as relations between the Turkish and European parliaments," he said.

The MEPs' visit coincided with a visit to Ankara by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, the commissioner for enlargement negotiations.

Evaluating recent developments in Turkish-EU ties, Mogherini stressed on Thursday in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu that the EU welcomed Turkey's recent efforts to boost ties with the bloc.

"We can only salute and commend the decision that the Turkish government took to intensify relations with the EU," Mogherini said, referring to the statements in the context of the Reform Action Group that will meet again in early December.

Aiming to turn a new page in the EU process, Turkey decided in the Reform Action Group (RAG) meeting in September to implement new reforms.

According to the RAG meeting, Turkey will prioritize reforms linked to its European Union accession process in the coming period and expects to see results from its efforts, including on the issue of visa liberalization. Ankara has promised to work on accelerating political reforms, focusing on the judiciary, freedoms and fundamental rights. "Turkey is a candidate country and is also a key strategic partner for the EU. EU-Turkish ties are extremely important not only for the EU and Turkey but also very important for our region and global foreign policy at large," Mogherini said in the meeting.

"The EU wants a strong Turkey and strong cooperation with it. This is our objective. We want Turkey to be stable, prosperous and democratic, as a neighbor that we can work with hand in hand in a region of strategic importance for both of us," Mogherini underlined.

Reiterating Turkey's expectations and the EU's need to fulfill its promises, Çavuşoğlu criticized the EU's decision against opening new chapters. "We made an agreement on migration. We signed to open five chapters [of the acquis communitaire], then a decision comes out. This is hypocrisy, there's no explanation for this," he said.

Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community - a precursor to the EU - in 1987. It became eligible for EU membership in 1997 and accession talks began in 2005. In recent years, Turkey has complained of the EU refusing to open chapters in its accession negotiations for political - not substantive - reasons.

Ankara has also faulted the EU for failing to uphold its end of the March 2016 refugee deal, including visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and the delivery of a promised multibillion-euro aid package for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The foreign minister said in the press conference that there are six criteria left out of 72 for visa liberalization. He also stressed that the customs union should be updated as it would benefit both sides.

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