CHP: Erdoğan gave consent to contentious 72 EU benchmarks
Emine Kart - ANKARA
DHA photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s depiction of the European Union’s conditions for a visa-free travel deal as a fait accompli has drawn a reaction from a main opposition deputy who recalled that then-PM Erdoğan was among the audience when Turkish and EU leaders agreed to the terms in December 2013.
In a speech delivered on May 10, Erdoğan, elected as president in August 2014, drew attention to the promises given to Turkey during his tenure as prime minister for exempting Turkish nationals from visa requirement across the EU’s Schengen zone by October 2016.
“What did they do later on? They said ‘Let’s bring forward this to June!’ But, while offering this, they also said something else. They laid down 72 benchmarks. These benchmarks just came out. These benchmarks weren’t there beforehand,” Erdoğan said.
But main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Eskişehir deputy Utku Çakırözer said the 72 benchmarks were set during Erdoğan’s prime ministry and that the related deal was signed by then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, “to the best of Erdoğan’s knowledge.”
Turkey and the EU launched the dialogue on visa liberalization and signed the Readmission Agreement with a signature ceremony in Ankara on Dec. 16, 2013, with Davutoğlu and Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s commissioner for home affairs at the time, signing the deal, Çakırözer said, emphasizing that Erdoğan, as well as the ministers for EU and interior affairs, attended the ceremony.
“Erdoğan, who was the prime minister on that day, was among those who applauded this deal. How do we know this? Because on the official websites of the Foreign Ministry and the EU Ministry, there are both the texts of the roadmap which cover the 72 benchmarks and photographs of Mr. Davutoğlu signing the deal with great pleasure and of Mr. Erdoğan who applauded him,” Çakırözer told the Hürriyet Daily News on May 13.
“Signing the deal at the time and now asking ‘Where did these 72 criteria come from?’ is nothing but deceiving our people. Besides, it doesn’t befit the identity and manners of a statesman who represents the Republic of Turkey at the highest level. It is a manner of harming our country’s reputation, reliability and plausibility abroad in Europe,” he said.
Underlining that the EU’s support for Turkey’s justified struggle against terrorism was insufficient, Çakırözer, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said Turkey should bring this flaw to the EU’s attention at every occasion.
“However, while doing this, we should also oppose the imprisonment of journalists, intellectuals, lawyers, scientists and civil society activists in our country – who just express, write, draw and share their views – on charges of ‘terrorism’ or ‘supporting terrorism,’” Çakırözer said.