Turkey might be an important partner for tackling the migration crisis, however concerns over issues such as the media freedom and the rule of law have raised doubts about how much progress the country has made towards EU membership. MEPs debate the situation in Turkey last year on Wednesday 13 April. You can follow the discussion live on our website. We talked to Kati Piri, a Dutch member of the S&D group who is responsible for steering the 2015 progress report through Parliament.
Is Turkey heading in the right direction towards EU membership? Is media freedom at risk in the country?
In general one can say that Turkey is moving further away from meeting the European standards. When it comes to media freedom, the rule of law and the situation in the south east with the Kurdish minority, we have big concerns about certain internal developments.
Does the need for cooperation on migration risk coming at the expense of human rights?
That's the risk of course and this Parliament has been very clear that this should not happen. We have criticised the European Commission for having postponed a couple of months ago their critical report just ahead of Turkish elections, which we think was a bad signal to give.
The Parliament is also united in saying that the cooperation on migration should not be linked to accession. Accession criteria are criteria that have to be met. This is not a negotiable tit for tat, which can be done in return for cooperation on migration. This is not the way a credible enlargement process should be conducted.
EU countries are keen to find an effective solution to tackle the migration crisis with the help of Turkey. How do we avoid rushing through agreements such as visa free travel as a result?
In order to have a credible partner in Turkey, we need a stable Turkey and a more democratic Turkey. And we cannot just say, we now have the migration crisis so we don't discuss all the other issues. This is the signal the European Parliament wants to send with this report. With Turkey as a candidate country, we will also have to look at the internal developments and openly discuss it with the government.
I think we should look at visa facilitation for Turkey, just as we did with many other countries, but only when the criteria have been met.
We work with clear criteria on issues such the quality of passports and border controls. Over the last two years Turkey has done quite a lot but one third of the 72 requirements still need to be done. I don't think it's realistic to say Turkey will manage to pass all this legislation in a month's time if it hasn't done so in the last two years.
But as soon as the legislation is in place and the criteria have been met, I see no obstacles to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens.