MESOP REPORT FROM BRUSSELS : Freedom of expression hot topic for European Parliament president visiting Turkey

Freedom of expression topped the agenda of European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s April 8 visit to Turkey, where he met a number of senior officials.  Freedom of expression and freedom of the media would be a permanent item during all of his meetings in Turkey, Schulz told reporters during his meeting with Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairs Tuğrul Türkeş and Oktay Vural.Schulz and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Anne Brasseur visited Ankara on April 8, amid a bid to intensify dialogue and increase the visibility of relations between Turkey and European bodies.  He also met separately with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş.

Meeting with Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır, Schulz told reporters that in coming to Turkey he was visiting “one of [Europe’s] most important strategic partners.”
In his meeting with Schulz, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu expressed satisfaction with recent mutual visits between Turkey and the EU, according to Foreign Ministry officials. He also reiterated his expectation that Chapter 17 of Turkey’s stalled EU accession process, on economic and monetary policies, would be opened, after Ankara submitted a position paper to Brussels on March 13, officials told the Hürriyet Daily News.Also reportedly on the agenda were the issues of visa liberalization, the resumption of talks for the reunification of Cyprus, negotiations expected to start in 2015 for upgrading the customs union between Turkey and the EU.
On April 15, the European Parliament will vote on a resolution on recognizing the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide, on the centennial year of the commemorations, and this was also on the table during Schulz’s talks in Ankara. PACE President Brasseur, meanwhile, met with EU Minister Bozkır, Parliament Speaker Çiçek, and CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu.