The European Parliament's recently appointed Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor underlined that Turkey’s accession process to the EU has to continue. “Turkey is an important country for the EU. Turkey is our permanent neighbor, we cannot change this. Thus we need to be in better relations within the current format or any other format possible,” Amor told Deutsche Welle on Saturday.
Pointing out that his relation with Turkey was not new, Amor said it dated back to five to six years ago. “In the past years, I headed delegations appointed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in order to watch the elections in Turkey. I went to Turkey several times. I am one of the first foreign parliamentarians that visited Turkey after the coup attempt,” Amor stated, adding that he has no personal agenda or interest in Turkey nor does he advertise himself this way. “My only aim is to leave the Turkey file in a better state than it is now. I believe that I will have some outcomes regarding this. I have a neutral view toward Turkey,” Amor continued while mentioning that the opposite is quite wide-spread in Europe.
“Prejudices regarding Turkey spread fast across Europe. There are people in the European Parliament that do not have the necessary experience and knowledge about Turkey. When you say Turkey these days, people think of Syria first. This is especially the case for our new member friends. It is not possible for Europeans to understand the Syrian operation,” Amor explained. He stressed that the problem in the EU is that people do not look at the country, but rather focus on the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The rapporteur also underlined the funds for civilian society has to continue even if some EU funds are cut. Signing a partnership agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963, Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987, became a member country in 1999 and accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections by the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France. Ankara, which maintains the strategic goal of EU membership, has been calling on the EU for some time now to conclude the process either way instead of stalling. Yet, Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring launched on Oct. 9 in order to thwart the terror corridor on its southern border and enable Syrians to return home has been heavily criticized by some European countries, putting another strain on Turkey-EU relations.
Turkey has also criticized the EU for not keeping its promises of aid for Syrian refugees. At the end of October, the European Union announced that it is mobilizing over 600 million euros ($668 million) of additional funding in humanitarian aid to support refugees living in Turkey. The announcement comes after the bloc stalled its payments pledged in the 2016 deal signed between Ankara and Brussels. This aid is needed by Turkey since it takes much of the burden of hosting Syrian refugees alone while hosting with the highest number of Syrian refugees in the whole world. Amor replaced Kati Piri in October after the European Parliament approved his nomination. Since then, the rapporteur has been signaling positive messages in order to enhance EU-Turkey relations. Elected to the European Parliament in 2019, Amor is a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. He noted that although various developments have mired EU-Turkey relations, he wants to start a new page. The rapporteur had also highlighted Turkey's significance as a partner, which accepted refugees with open arms.