EU expects spirit of cooperation to resume after Davutoğlu’s departure

EU expects spirit of cooperation to resume after Davutoğlu’s departure

Emine Kart - ANKARA
EU expects spirit of cooperation to resume after Davutoğlu’s departure Praising the outgoing Turkish government’s spirit of cooperation, the top European Union diplomat based in Ankara has voiced his expectation that the subsequent government after the departure of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will uphold the country’s agreement with Brussels on curbing migration as well as on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.

“I think we have worked together well with the administration, the refuge deal was, as you know, and also the ideas were converging on both sides, it was basically an initiative proposed by [the] Turkish administration under Prime Minister Davutoğlu,” Hansjörg Haber, the head of the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, told a group of journalists on May 6.

“It was a good cooperation. To finish the deal, we need continuity of course. I mean, that means in the technical sense, but also in the sense of wishing to fulfill these benchmarks. We expect that from any subsequent Turkish government, if only because visa liberalization is a very important aspiration of the government but also of [the] Turkish public as well,” Haber said.

Davutoğlu announced on May 5 he was stepping down as leader of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and therefore as prime minister, raising questions about the migrant deal with the EU. It is widely considered that his departure consolidates the power of President Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been highly critical of the EU in the past and who is seen in Brussels as a far tougher negotiating partner. 

“Davutoğlu was prime minister but it was proposed by Turkey,” a Brussels-based European Commission official told Hürriyet Daily News. “We had meetings with high-level officials also from the office of President Erdoğan so the discussions were not only with the prime minister but also the president was also very involved in all discussions,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.

In Pristina, the EU’s foreign affairs chief said the bloc was unsure how the departure of Turkey’s prime minister would affect the deal he struck with the EU to curb migration.

“It’s a bit too early to define if it will have implications and in that case of what kind,” Federica Mogherini said during a visit to Kosovo on May 6. “We will obviously discuss this first of all with the Turkish authorities and define together how to move forward,” Mogherini said.

In Berlin on the same day, a German government spokesperson said Germany expected Turkey to uphold the deal on curbing migration following the departure of the minister who struck it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had worked well with Davutoğlu and all Turkish officials, “and we expect this good and constructive cooperation to continue with a new Turkish prime minister,” German deputy government spokesperson Georg Streiter said.

Criteria on definition of terror ‘pretty clear’

Amendments to the anti-terror law was one of the final five criteria that the government needed to fulfill in order to obtain the visa waiver for its citizens from the EU. However, EU Minister Volkan Bozkır, in remarks delivered on May 4, was quoted as saying that Ankara would not revise legislation and policies on terrorism. 

“Of course, we will have to talk about that, Mr. Bozkır will explain his point of view, we will explain ours. I think the benchmark is pretty clear; we will have to find a solution for that but I don’t think I can go into further detail on the basis of this one remark which I have also like you read this morning in the media,” Haber said.

‘Race against time’

The veteran German diplomat meanwhile praised the Turkish civil service’s and in particular Foreign Ministry’s performance since March 4, when the commission adopted its second report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalization roadmap.

“The last progress report was on March 4 and the fulfillment of the benchmarks was 36 to 36. Since then, we have seen a dramatic race against time. It was almost an explantational curve of implementation of the different benchmarks. There were dramatic events like the chartering of an airplane to send the original copies of ratified agreements of the Council of Europe to Strasbourg on time. I think you can be proud of what the Turkish bureaucracy or the administration can achieve under time pressure,” Haber said. “The Foreign Ministry had [a] very important role although all ministries had a part,” he said.

‘Time for sustained effort now’

Haber elaborated on remaining criteria that still need to be fulfilled by Turkey. 

“But of course we have eight benchmarks still outstanding of which the three of them, the biometric passports, the readmission agreement and the visa liberalization for 11 of our member states, we consider as fulfilled because they will be fulfilled when we have visa liberalization on July 1,” he said.

“What remains to be done is ‘corruption’ - it is basically a legislative measure because Turkey has to adhere to the recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption, GRECO - the personal data protection and we have to negotiate an operational cooperation agreement with Europol. There needs to be effective judicial cooperation in criminal matters, to all EU member states, and there needs to be a revision of the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, notably but better aligning different definition of terrorism in line with the 2002 framework decision. All of this hangs together. If you consider for example, data protection, if Turkey were not an accession country, then it would be slightly different. But Turkey is an accession country and in the long-run will have to adopt our standards on data protection. For this visa liberalization, we need to be able to exchange data on persons and for this we will need to make sure that these persons enjoy the same protection in Turkey as in the European Union because otherwise in the European Union, they can take us to court. This is not fastidious standards but there are very concrete concerns behind them. So that is why we need it. Most of this is legislation. When we agreed on the roadmap in 2013, with a lot of time, much more than we have now, we wanted to see all these things in practice, how they work. Now since we have the deal on refugees and it is already working, we have shown certain flexibility but we now need a sustained effort on the part of the Turkish authorities to put into place these other measures,” he said.