EU concerned about freedoms in Turkey, says door still open
STRASBOURG – Anadolu Agency
AA PhotoThe European Parliament’s rapporteur for Turkey, Kati Piri, has expressed concerns over the “independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and the freedom of press” in Turkey, adding “shutting Turkey’s door to the European Union is not what the parliament wants.”
Piri, who spoke at a press conference in Strasbourg on May 20, said she was worried about freedoms in Turkey as the parliament postponed until June a planned vote on approving her report detailing Turkey’s progress towards EU membership, titled the Turkey 2014 Progress Report.
“The EU and Turkey are important strategic partners and the EU’s relations with Turkey are based on dialogue at the highest level and shutting the door is not what this parliament wants,” she said.
The European Parliament blamed a large number of recent amendments to the report for the postponement, citing the political groups lacked time to discuss these amendments tabled to the text this week.
Despite criticisms over “government interference” in the judiciary and bans imposed on social media, the report praised the Turkey for its inclusive and sustainable settlement with its Kurdish population.
Piri stated the European Parliament appreciated the Turkish government’s efforts with regards to what is known as the “solution process,” an initiative started in 2013 and aimed at ending the decades-old conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people in almost 40 years. “The European Parliament encourages both sides to continue towards sustainable peace,” she added.
The Turkey 2014 Progress Report also praised the country for “its invaluable support” of Syrian refugees.
Piri said the European Parliament “praised all the efforts made by the Turkish government to host more refugees than any other country in the world today,” adding the EU itself was discussing on how adequate protection could be given to refugees.
“We are internally weighing the refugee problem. When we look at Turkey, we can see what the country has done thus far on how to take care of the refugees. Turkey provides them with free healthcare, high living standards and high quality education. Turkey, however, carries this burden on its own... We have to help solve this problem,” she added.
Negotiations on EU membership for Turkey began in 2005. A total of 35 chapters, which set out reforms needed to become a member, have yet to be complied with since.