Piri: ‘Turkey needs to meet very objective candidacy criteria’

Following the critical report, European Parliament Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri told DW that the EP had to voice criticism because Ankara is not fulfilling the candidacy criteria. “We hope that through this dialogue we can increase the efforts to work on more reforms just as it has been done in the past,” said Piri.

 DW: Your report has just been adopted by the European Parliament. What are its main messages?

Kati Piri: Although we know the EU and Turkey need each other and we must cooperate, of course also on the question of migration, we should not turn away from what is happening inside a candidate country that is also negotiating about accession to the EU. There, I think, by large majority we have concerns about media freedom, strong concerns about what is happening in the southeast of the country. What should be the answer to this is this Parliament; by a large majority, adopted saying we should open chapters 23 and 24, not because we think things are going well in Turkey, but because we truly believe this can increase our dialogue on these issues.


On the migrant issue, since this is a huge debate between EU and Turkey, it seems there is a divergence between the European Parliament and what has been achieved between EU and Turkey. Dou you share this opinion?


We had this debate. President of the Council Mr. Tusk said from the beginning, he knows this is not a perfect deal. Everyone in Turkey recognizes it is not the perfect deal. The implementation will be the answer whether we can make this deal happen or not. In the end I think three things should be in mind. First of all, it needs to be in line with international and European law. There are concerns about human rights organizations now on the ground in Greece saying what the EU is doing here is not in line yet with European and international law. We have to make sure of course that we also provide safe and legal routes for refugees. This is also the way we can really do the burden sharing with Turkey by taking over refugees coming to the European Union. The third thing is of course that all this has to be helpful for the refugees. So it should be helping us, sharing the burden but it should also have an open hand to the refugees who want to come to Europe just as Turkey has already shown last five years that it was willing to host more than 3 million refugees on its ground.


Are the expectations too high for the realization of this deal with Turkey?


It depends on who you speak to. Even in my own political group there are big divisions. There are not only ideological divisions but also national divisions. I think those countries who faced the largest influx of refugees the last year, countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, we recognize that we could not continue the way we did which was uncontrolled migration flows, some countries doing their best to take up refugees, others doing nothing. So I think these are the countries who looked at it pragmatically and who are the ones pushing for this deal. It is very easy to criticize the deal if you come from a country which is not taking up any refugee. To be very honest I take the criticism of NGOs very seriously. We should have a look at it. But those colleagues who in their own countries are not willing to take up any refugees I do not take their criticism on the deal seriously.


Deal with Turkey is a package. There is the visa issue for Turkish citizens; it also is about opening new negotiation chapters. During the debate you did not seem happy with that part of the package. Why?


I think a lot of people in Turkey have been disappointed over the last 10 years because they saw even the Turkish government was making reforms, especially at the beginning of the accession process, there were European politicians here who were saying ‘no, it does not matter what Turkey is doing, we simply do not want it in the European Union’. I was then also criticizing this is not fair. If a country is reforming we should accelerate the process. Now the opposite is happening. We see that reforms in Turkey are not taking place; we actually see a backlash, in certain developments. Just for the sake of the cooperation by Ankara on the migration issue I hear the same politicians now saying we should accelerate the process and open chapters. I think the enlargement process for citizens in the European Union but also for Turkish citizens can only be credible if we judge it based on merits, what has been achieved, on the reforms in the country. I do not think we should be linking it to any other issue including the migration deal. When it comes to visa liberalization, of course, we have been negotiating this with Turkey, and I continue to support that. The Parliament today also did by adopting the report. As soon as Turkey meets the technical criteria we should immediately go ahead and lift the visa.

If Turkey fulfils the criteria, as you said, do you think the European Parliament will give approval to visa liberalization?

Yes. I do believe that. Sometimes the critics are the loudest always. As you saw the opening of chapters 23 and 24 it also got al large majority in this Parliament. Sometimes only the critical voices are heard in the media. The large majority here (EP) is critical about what is happening in Turkey but we also want to move forward. We do not just want to accept that we criticize the government in Turkey and then take your hands off, close the door as if we have nothing to do with Turkey. Most people in this Parliament want to have an engaged cooperation with Turkey. We hope that through this dialogue we also can increase the efforts in Turkey to work again on more reforms just as has been done in the past.