In Turkey / Türkiye

Press release by External Relations European Parliament, June 14, 2016

(And further below, EU Commission issues report on June 15 on progress of EU-Turkey deal in March 2016 to grant visa-free travel in exchange for barring migrants.)

If Turkey goes on undermining rule of law principles and stripping Members of the Turkish Parliament of their immunities then it should not expect to be granted an EU visa-free regime, said Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in Brussels on June 14 in an exchange with Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The MEPs also voiced solidarity with Mr Demirtaş’ efforts to revive the Kurdish peace process talks.

Kati Piri, EU Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey

Kati Piri, EU Parliament Rapporteur on Turkey

Mr Demirtaş, the leader of one of Turkey’s major opposition parties, noted that his country is living through extraordinary times, as its constitution is suspended, political and media rights are violated, and Turkish MPs are stripped of their immunities. Coupled with the halt of Kurdish peace process talks, this has become an “Erdoğan strategy” to ignite national feelings and make President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “a single man in power”, Mr Demirtaş explained.

MEPs were worried by Mr Demirtaş’ claims that the Turkish opposition might be put behind bars as soon as next week, given that the Turkish public prosecutor is filing terrorist propaganda charges. Several MEPs stated that with the opposition in prison and rule of law principles neglected, Turkey should not expect to get an EU visa-free regime any time soon.

Kurdish peace talks

A large majority of MEPs expressed solidarity with Mr Demirtaş’ efforts to revive the Kurdish peace process talks and called on him to denounce the violence and terrorist attacks. He agreed that “the solution is not in violence or firearms, but in negotiations”, calling on the European Parliament act as a mediator to this end.


Asked by several MEPs about the future of the EU-Turkey migration deal, the HDP leader said that refugees “are not a big burden for us […], but they can only return to their homeland if there is stability in Syria.”

He also noted that President Erdoğan should not be taking decisions alone on the future of EU-Turkey relations or the annulment of EU-Turkey deals..

You can watch the recording of the debate via VOD (from 11:48).

No visa deal for Turkey if HDP MPs jailed says lead EU parliamentarian 

Kurdish Question, June 15, 2016
The Rapporteur for Turkey of the European Parliament , Kati Piri, spoke during a panel discussion on June 14 at the Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee in Brussels alongside People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-president Selahattin Demirtaş. She commented on the law passed by the Turkish Parliament recently lifting the parliamentary immunity of HDP deputies and emphasised that the European Parliament would never approve the visa agreement between the EU and Turkey if Turkey jails even a single HDP parliamentarian.

Addressing Selahattin Demirtaş, Piri said “The European Parliament will never sign the visa agreement if you or your colleagues are imprisoned.”

Piri said that the majority of the European Parliament was critical of Turkey in many areas. She said the HDP was the main target of the lifting of immunities.

Turkey has refused to reform its anti-terror laws as a prerequisite for visa-free travel between Turkey and the EU. Anti-terror laws are being used to prosecute academics, journalists and opposition parties.

The European Union’s top envoy to Turkey, Hansjoerg Haber, recently resigned, one month after he was summoned by Turkey’s foreign ministry over comments critical of Ankara’s handling of the landmark migration deal. Turkish officials took offense at his use of an unflattering German saying, cited in local newspapers, to describe how a plan to ease visa restrictions for Turks traveling to Europe, part of the wider migrant deal, had run into problems.

Breaking news: Police raid HDP co-chair’s house in Istanbul, Hurriyet Daily News, June 15, 2016

Turkey-EU migrant deal still fragile despite progress: Brussels

Hurriyet Daily News, June 15, 2016

(AFP photo)

(AFP photo)

A comprehensive deal reached between Ankara and Brussels in a bid to stop the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to Greece has shown further progress since April, however that progress remains fragile, the European Commission has said.

The second report examining the state of the implementation of the Turkey-EU Statement that was agreed to in mid-March was adopted by the European Commission on June 15 in Brussels, outlining the state of ongoing discussions over visa liberalization as well as the implementation of the Readmission Agreement.

“Today, the commission adopted its second report on the EU-Turkey Statement showing that while there has been further good progress in its implementation, progress achieved so far remains fragile. The continued successful implementation depends mainly on the political determination of all parties involved,” read the report.

The fact that the number of people crossing irregularly or losing their lives in the Aegean Sea has sharply declined constitutes the best proof of the effectiveness of the deal between the two parties, the report underlined, informing that in the weeks before the implementation of the statement, around 1,740 migrants were crossing the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands every day. By contrast, the average daily number of irregular crossings since May 1 was down to 47.

One-for-one formula works 

The return of irregular migrants from Greek islands to Turkey was also functioning, as 462 migrants have been returned to Turkey, in accordance with EU and international law and in full respect of the principle of non-refoulement, the report underlined.

“A total of 511 Syrians have been resettled so far from Turkey to the EU under the 1:1 scheme (additional 408 since the first progress report) – substantially exceeding the number of returns from Greece to Turkey,” it said. The deal obliges the EU to accept one Syrian refugee from Turkey in return of Turkish readmission of one Syrian refugee from Greek islands.

Technical talks for visa waiver continue 

On the most controversial part of the deal, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, the report stressed Turkey needed to fully fulfill all 72 criteria outlined in the roadmap. “Since May 4, further progress has been made, notably with the entry into force of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement that still requires a final decision on actual application. The commission continues to support Turkey in the work that still needs to be done to fulfil the remaining benchmarks and invites Turkey to take these measures as soon as possible to enable the EU to lift the visa requirements for Turkish citizens,” it said.

On one of the much-discussed remaining criteria that Turkey needed to fulfill, the report said, asked the Turkish government “to revise the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, notably by better aligning the definition of terrorism in order to narrow the scope of the definition and by introducing a criterion of proportionality.”

Chapter 33 will be opened at end of June

The report also cited progress as for the opening of chapters, particularly on Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions that will likely be opened on the last day of June. “In addition, preparatory work continues at an accelerated pace to make progress on five chapters, without prejudice to member states’ positions in accordance with the existing rules,” it said, adding work has almost been finalized in the areas of energy and judiciary and fundamental rights.

The June 15, 2016 press release of the European Commission reporting on progress with the March 2016 EU-Turkey visa/migrant deal is here.

Related reading:

Eleven new summary of proceedings against Turkish Parliament deputies sent to prosecutors

Hurriyet Daily News, June 15, 2016

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has received 11 summary of proceedings dossiers prepared against two opposition party leaders and an opposition party deputy over crimes including “insulting the president.”

With the arrival of the summary of proceedings against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, CHPAnkara deputy Levent Gök and opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, the office is expected to launch separate investigations for each document. The probes will be executed in line with the Turkish Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure.

Those lawmakers whose immunities are lifted will be able to continue their deputy duties and they will be tried only on charges which cause the lifting of their immunities.

Regarding the issue of relieving deputies of their duties, Article 84 of the constitution comes into effect, whereby this step would be taken after convictions or suspensions are sent to the general assembly.


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