Euro MPs cancel trip over rapporteur crisis

Euro MPs cancel trip over rapporteur crisis

Güven Özalp – BRUSSELS
Euro MPs cancel trip over rapporteur crisis Top European Union lawmakers on Nov. 17 canceled a visit to Turkey after Ankara refused to see an MEP because of her criticism of Ankara’s massive crackdown following July’s failed coup.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, was included in a group of MEPs that were scheduled to visit Turkey after Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik paid a visit to the EU in Brussels. 

Elmar Brok, the chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and Piri had been due to “hold high-level meetings with Turkish authorities and representatives of the opposition and civil society with a view to restore political dialogue,” an EU statement said, according to AFP.

But Turkey did not want Piri to be a part of the delegation visiting Turkey due to her recent remarks over the possibility of halting Turkey’s EU membership bid. 

A spokesman for Piri told AFP that she had recently come to the conclusion it would be best to suspend the negotiations given the situation in Turkey.

Turkey conveyed to the EU that they did not want Piri, who had been added to the group by European Parliament head Martin Schulz, to join the group.

Turkey said Brok could hold talks in Ankara but that Piri would not be allowed. As such, the EP canceled its visit to Turkey. 

“The Turks agreed to meet Brok but they did not want to meet Piri” because of the positions she has taken, a parliament source told AFP, asking not to be named.

The EU statement said Schulz had talked to the two MEPs and decided “to postpone the visit until parliament’s prerogatives are respected.” 

The EU has long been critical of Turkey’s rights record and a post-coup purge. Tens of thousands of people have been detained or dismissed from their jobs since July 15, straining relations to the breaking point, while many MEPs have backed calls for already difficult membership talks with Ankara to be halted.

“Brok and Piri represent the European Parliament and we cannot allow [Turkey] to have a pick-and-choose approach on who speaks to whom,” Schulz said in the statement.

Schulz had previously contacted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and on Nov. 15 met Çelik to keep channels open, the statement said.

“The European Union remains committed to dialogue. Dialogue, however, requires that the two sides be willing to talk to each other. I continue to hope that the European Parliament will be able to visit Turkey soon,” Schulz said. 

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said during a parliamentary speech regarding Italy’s position on the latest developments with Turkey that if the death penalty is reintroduced in Turkey, the EU membership process would “automatically stop.”

“The EU cannot accept a country that implements the death penalty as a member,” Doğan News Agency quoted Gentiloni as saying. 

Following the failed coup attempt on July 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would approve a decision to reinstate the death penalty if parliament decides to do so. 

Since then, the EU has been critical of the situation.