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 Full text 
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - Brussels Revised edition

16. State of play in Turkey, in particular with regard to the constitutional referendum (debate)
Video of the speeches

  Syed Kamall, on behalf of the ECR Group . – Madam President, let us be honest today. Across this House most – if not all – of us share concerns over the current direction of the Turkish Government under President Erdogan. Maybe some speakers today will try to out-compete each other in their condemnations, or even – as the previous speaker said – their insults. Yes, we all share concerns over press freedom in Turkey. Yes, we all share concerns over the treatment of the opposition and the conduct of the referendum; and we all share concerns over President Erdogan seeking to grab more executive power for what has, up to now, been largely a ceremonial presidency.

However, many in this House also realise that, at times, we need to work with Turkey. We need to work with Turkey when it comes to controlling the flows of refugees and migrants and we need to work with Turkey on regional security as an important member of NATO. We need to work with Turkey as we share concerns over issues such as Russian aggression. So, in reality, we are talking about a difficult balancing act and this balancing act needs two things. Firstly, we need to be honest with Turkey that it may never be a member of the EU. There are too many concerns: prejudice against a largely Muslim population; a landmass which lies mostly in Asia; the prospect of freedom of movement for millions of Turks; the prospect of voting weights in the Council and here in this Parliament; and an EU external border which would be with countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. Secondly, we need to have a more robust and critical relationship between Turkey and the EU.

But in seeking both, the EU has to ask itself: is the EU ready for the consequences of Turkey possibly opening its borders with Greece and allowing people to transit to the EU, and of President Erdogan seeing himself being pushed into the arms of countries such as Russia or Iran? So, while Turkey is not ready for EU membership – and it is not even ready for visa liberalisation – completely turning our back on Turkey is not an option. This is why the ECR Group welcomes calls for a different kind of relationship with Turkey. It will be a difficult balancing act requiring much diplomacy. It may be a more difficult relationship, but it will be a more honest relationship – more cautious, more critical, focused more on cooperation and no longer on the distant goal of EU membership.

Last updated: 18 July 2017Legal notice