In a report adopted on Thursday, MEPs call on Turkey to credibly demonstrate the sincerity of its commitment to closer relations with the European Union.

Despite the fact that Turkey is an EU accession candidate country, in recent years the Government of Turkey distanced itself deliberately and increasingly from European values and standards, warn MEPs in the report adopted by the Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thursday.                                                                                                                            In addition to this, they say, the strong and, at times, provocative statements against the EU and its member states, and its hostile foreign policy, especially towards Greece and Cyprus, have brought EU-Turkey relations to a historic low point.

Backsliding in the rule of law and fundamental rights

MEPs stress that Turkey’s lack of political will to carry out the reforms assumed in the accession process, and its failure to address the EU’s serious concerns on the rule of law and fundamental rights, have negatively affected the accession process.                            They call on Turkey to credibly demonstrate the sincerity of its commitment to closer relations with the EU. If the current negative trend is not urgently and consistently reversed, the Commission should recommend that accession negotiations be formally suspended, insist MEPs.

Diverse and engaged civil society

Pointing to the misuse of anti-terror measures in Turkey, MEPs express concern about the continued mass incarceration of people, including journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents. Yet in spite of the massive political crackdown, they stress, in Turkey exists a diverse and engaged civil society, one of the few remaining checks on the government. Therefore, they urge the Commission to continue to support Turkish civil society organisations financially.

Call for continuous support to Syrian refugees

They acknowledge the EU’s ongoing diplomatic efforts for a true and effective dialogue with Turkey, as a key partner in the stability of the wider region.                                          The report also recalls that Turkey played and still plays important role by hosting almost 4 million refugees, of which approximately 3.6 million are Syrian, noting that the challenges in addressing this crisis have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It commends these efforts and encourages the EU to continue to give the necessary support to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey.

The rapporteur Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES) said: “This report is probably the toughest ever in its criticism towards the situation in Turkey. It reflects all that has unfortunately happened in the country in the last two years, in particular in the fields of human rights and rule of law, which remain the main concern for the European Parliament, and in its relations towards the EU and its members. We hope Turkey will definitively change course and put recent expressions of good will into concrete action. We urge the other EU institutions to make any positive agenda they might pursue with Turkey conditional upon democratic reform.”                                                                                                           The report was adopted by 49 votes in favour, 4 against and 14 abstentions on Thursday. The results were announced on Friday.

The report will be submitted to the plenary for the Parliament to vote on it as a whole. After its adoption in plenary, it will represent Parliament’s official position as regards to EU relations with Turkey.