EP report on readmission agreement harshly criticizes Turkey

EU Parliament

“Ankara has not fulfilled “a single point of the Copenhagen Criteria.”

Germany’s Renate Sommer (Christ Democrat)

14 May 2013 /SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, BRUSSELS – Zaman – Despite its consent to the signing of the readmission agreement by Brussels, a central pillar of visa facilitation negotiations between the European Union and Turkey, the European Parliament has harshly criticized Turkey, alleging that Ankara has not fulfilled “a single point of the Copenhagen Criteria.”

A draft recommendation seen by Today’s Zaman and penned by German Christian Democrat Renate Sommer on the “readmission agreement” claims that Turkey has been “the main transit country for illegal immigration” into the European Union. Ankara has categorically denied this sort of assessment on previous occasions.In the “Background” section of the draft, the report says: “The land route through Turkey to Greece is currently the route most frequently used by migrants and refugees travelling to the European Union from all over the world. This makes Turkey the main transit country for illegal immigration into the European Union.”

In an odd note, the rapporteur argues that Turkey has “suddenly” changed its mind and started asking for visa liberalization conditional on signing the readmission agreement. “Turkey has also done no more than initial the agreement so far, since the Turkish side suddenly decided to make its signing of the agreement conditional on the European Union drawing up a roadmap for visa liberalization,” says the draft.

The draft, which was discussed last week by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the EP, has been criticized by Ankara. Sources speaking to Today’s Zaman on the condition of anonymity, said the rapporteur refused to take advice and contributions and the end-result was counter-productive. The Turkish side says there are also factual mistakes in the draft that alleges that Turkey is asking for visa-liberalization before the signing of the readmission agreement. Ankara has been asking for a parallel process.

In the “rapporteur’s position” section of the draft, Sommer raises harsh criticism vis-à-vis Turkey. Claiming that the EU has responded positively to Turkey’s requests, the draft asks Turkey to sign the readmission agreement “without delay.” It also alleges that Turkey has adopted a new approach that is unacceptable.

The new approach taken by Turkey, i.e., to delay ratifying the readmission agreement until the European Union introduces practical visa facilitation measures for Turkish citizens is not acceptable, according to the draft, implying that Ankara has been using illegal immigration to blackmail Brussels. “Turkey cannot use mass illegal migration through its territory to Greece as a means of exerting pressure on the European Union,” it says. 

Drawing attention to the Cypriot problem, the draft says Turkey has not accepted the integrity of the EU by not recognizing the Greek Cypriot administration as the sole representative of the island. The Annan plan brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in April 2004 to unite the island was overwhelmingly refused by the Greek Cypriots but accepted by the Cypriot Turks. Despite Turks’ acceptance, they have been left out of the EU.

The rapporteur also argues that the accession talks would remain blocked as long as Turkey refused to recognize the Greek Cypriot administration.

The most serious allegation of the draft is the assessment that Turkey does not comply with “a single point” of the Copenhagen criteria (CC). Compliance with the CC is a pre-condition to start accession talks that commenced with Turkey in October 2005. “Along with other shortcomings, this sweeping restriction on freedom of opinion and freedom of the press contravenes the Copenhagen political criteria for the pre-accession process; Turkey was supposed to have met these criteria even before the opening of accession negotiations, but it still does not comply with a single point,” claims the draft. This allegation has deeply disturbed Ankara.  The draft welcomes the readmission agreement as it creates “an open perspective” process like the accession talks without any “automatic” commitments. “…Welcomes the Commission’s decision to link the drafting of an action plan for visa liberalization to strict criteria. The emphasis placed on the fact that this is a ‘gradual process’ with a ‘long-term perspective’ also matches the open perspective characterizing the accession negotiations. The visa action plan represents a significant move on the European Union’s part to meet Turkey’s wishes, without entailing any automatic mechanism,” says the draft. Sommer concludes her draft by giving a positive opinion to the signing of the readmission agreement by warning Turkey not to make additional demands and to sign the agreement “without further delay.”

The talks between Turkey and EU on visa liberalization have been stuck since the EU increased its demands from Turkey in an “action plan” that was originally prepared by the European Commission. The date for the voting of the draft has not been set. In the meantime, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış on Tuesday criticized the draft recommendation penned by Sommer on the readmission agreement.

“We see it as the delirium of a deputy. We don’t take it seriously. We hold talks concerning visas with the EU Commission. We cannot sacrifice these talks due to the efforts of a deputy to attract attention. If we had said ‘yes’ to such ungrounded demands, we would have put the action plan into action. But we did not care about this and requested the preparation of an action plan that includes our sensitivities, and we are after our request.”