Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Madam President, once again we gather here to discuss Turkey, and rightly so. I see that the other group leaders – most of them – are present here in the Chamber.

Our relationship with Turkey is at a crossroads because Turkey itself is at a crossroads. On the night of 15 July – we discussed it in September, I remember it very well – during the attempted coup d’état, we stood on the side of Turkey’s democracy and the democratic institutions. We stood on the side of the Turkish people who took to the streets and bravely confronted the tanks. We stood on the side of the over 200 innocent people who were shot down that night. We stood on the side of the Parliament as it was being bombed and of the Turkish parties – all of them that spoke against the coup and in support of democracy – all of them.

We supported Turkish democracy on 15 July and it is precisely Turkish democracy that we support today as we see the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a legitimate party in the Turkish Parliament, arrested and imprisoned. The arrest of the co-chairs of HDP, as well as the detention of several of its deputies, adds to a long list of extremely worrying developments. These include the consideration of the reinstatement of the death penalty, continued restrictions on freedom of expression, the closure of media outlets and the arrests of journalists and academics, the suspension of thousands of civil servants with a very worrying situation for the judicial system. We have always been clear that the Turkish authorities have a legitimate right to hold the perpetrators of the coup and of terrorist attacks accountable for their actions. We have also called on all political parties to unequivocally condemn terrorist violence.

At the same time we know that the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is the strongest antidote to extremism and terrorism. Any allegation of wrongdoing must be established via transparent procedures in all individual cases. Individual criminal liability can only be established with full respect for the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the right of every individual to a fair trial. We all agreed on this opposition in the Foreign Affairs Council just one week ago, on Monday. All Foreign Ministers have agreed on the importance of maintaining a unified and clear European Union position in line with our declaration on behalf of all 28 Member States issued earlier in November.

Our relations with Turkey have reached a crucial point. I believe the best way to strengthen Turkey’s democracy – the most effective way – is by engaging with Turkey and by keeping channels open. The accession process has achieved important results in many fields, from the energy sector to both our economies and businesses to the talks on Cyprus. Let me stress today how important the talks on Cyprus are for us all.

Turkey seems to be heading towards constitutional reform, and I would like to stress that this reform should serve as a platform to strengthen checks and balances, strengthen participatory democracy and address the Kurdish issue effectively. As we have made clear on many occasions, the European Union stands ready to fully support the country to achieve these goals. The work goes on and I recently met Turkey’s Europe Minister, Omer Celik, and also with the Secretary‑General of the Council of Europe, Jagland. This cooperation with the Council of Europe is particularly important and I really hope Turkey will address the concerns of the Council’s Commissioners for Human Rights. What is crucial in the short term is a swift, fair and independent domestic redress mechanism to be in place. Failing this, we are going to see a flood of cases before the European Court of Human Rights. I know talks are ongoing with the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, to address this issue. I hope this work will bring results.

This much the European Union and Turkey can do together starting, as I said, with Cyprus, but also our fight against terrorism, our economies, our businesses, refugees and the future of Syria which we have we just discussed, and the stability of the Caucasus. In all these fields we both need constant and reciprocal dialogue. I always say that foreign policy is about building win-win solutions. If the accession process came to an end, I believe we would both find ourselves in a lose-lose scenario. Europe would lose an important channel for dialogue and leverage with Turkey, Turkey would lose a lot, and we would all lose an opportunity for greater friendship and cooperation among our peoples.

In this spirit, we should also ask ourselves which tools and which instruments we have at our disposal in order to increase, and not to reduce, our leverage on Turkey’s reforms and on its society as a whole. In order to do so we need full clarity from our Turkish partners on what they want. In that regard, it is clear that moving from rhetoric to action on the issue of the death penalty would be a signal that Turkey does not want to be a member of the European family – neither a member of the Council of Europe, which it is now, nor of the European Union. Membership means, above all, sharing the values Europe stands for, and capital punishment is certainly not one of them.


It is good to see that at least here in our Chamber we do.

Some say that Turkey has to choose between the West and the East. Personally, I do not agree. Turkey can – and should – stay true to its nature as a bridge between worlds and cultures. But if Turkey moves further away from our European Union and from democracy, it would lose part of its own heritage, its own identity, its own culture and also its own power. This would be in no‑one’s interests and certainly not in the interests of the Turkish people, all of them. The last time I was in Turkey we all agreed that we need to talk to each other more – which we are doing – and a little bit less about each other. Sometimes we are doing that. I believe that this is the attitude we need both on the part of the Turkish Government and inside our Union.

We are looking forward to hearing your views. Both Commissioner Hahn and I will be listening very carefully to your interventions. Again, let me thank you all and especially, as I said, noticing the presence of so many group leaders for a debate that I believe will be essential to shaping the future of our relations with Turkey.