Human rights and rule of law should be at the core of EU-Turkey relations 

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Statement by the EP Standing Rapporteur for Turkey and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, ahead of the European Council meeting.

European Parliament Standing Rapporteur for Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor (S&D, ES) and Chair of the EU-Turkey parliamentary delegation Sergey Lagodinsky (Greens/EFA, DE) issued the following statement ahead of the upcoming European Council meeting in which EU leaders will discuss EU-Turkey relations.

“We are extremely concerned about the recent omissions of the pressing human rights and rule of law dimension from the agenda of the Council when dealing with the EU’s relationship with Turkey. Ahead of the upcoming meeting of the European Council, we want to stress the importance of this dimension being at the core of the assessment of our policy towards Turkey, particularly with regard to opening new areas for a positive agenda.


In recent days, we have witnessed a relentless set of actions being taken by the Government of Turkey that seriously affect human rights and rule of law in the country. This included withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention that aims to combat all forms of violence against women, the move towards banning the second largest opposition party HDP, a new sentence against the latter’s former co-Chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, in blatant disregard of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. In addition, HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was stripped of his parliamentary seat and was subsequently arrested on the premises of the Turkish Parliament.


While we support the High Representative/Vice-President Borrell in urging Turkey to reverse its decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention and in calling on Turkey to respect its core democratic obligations, we notice with astonishment the European Commission and European Council Presidents’ meeting with President Erdogan seemingly without putting the human rights situation at the core of the discussion. Furthermore, we believe that the Joint Communication on the state of play of EU-Turkey relations published on Monday should do more than factually describe the human rights situation in the country. Human rights should be a key element in formulating future actions towards Turkey, whether positive or negative.


The message that is currently being sent to the Turkish government is wrong and dangerous: human rights and the rule of law are less relevant for the EU than geopolitical interests. This manner of communicating is seriously damaging the EU’s credibility and international image, and is conveying a disheartening message to the large proportion of pro-European and pro-democratic Turkish citizens, who still turn hopefully towards the EU.


The duty to defend and promote a foreign policy based on principles and values, as enshrined in Article 21 of the Treaty on EU, is equally binding for all EU institutions, and particularly for the Council.


We strongly support all efforts aimed at de-escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and between the EU, its member states and Turkey, as we firmly believe in the need to have the best possible relationship with Turkey. However, and particularly because Turkey is not just a third country, but a candidate country to the EU, this cannot be pursued at any cost. Human rights and the rule of law should not be sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik.”