Nedzhmi Ali (ALDE) on the Draft report on the 2018 Commission Report on Turkey

22-11-N. Ali AFET 1 - rodopi copy

This statement was presented during a two-hour debate in AFET, the Foreign affairs committee of the European parliament, on 21.11.2018 in Brussels.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, Ms Piri, colleagues,

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for the report covering the large spectrum of events occurred in the envisioned period.

I would like to begin with a few words on the migration crisis. In her report, Ms Piri correctly points out that Turkey played an important role in tackling the migration crisis and that the Turkish people showed great hospitality by offering shelter to more than 3 million Syrian refugees. In the meantime, there is an information, for me as a representative of a border country, of Bulgaria, which is a neighbor of Turkey, that there is tension brewing in the country among the local population and refugees, because of the huge number of newly settled people – totaling almost 4 million people. Despite the enormous pressure, our partners have proven to be a stable force in this problematic situation.

Allow me to turn now to the economic side of things. The EU is Turkey’s number one trade partner, and Turkey is Europe’s sixth largest trade partner. The EU is the biggest foreign investor in Turkey and the latter is an important growth market for the EU, as correctly outlined by our rapporteur Ms Piri. In its report, the Commission goes into more detail, stating that Turkey is a well-advanced market economy and what is more, Turkey has continued to align with the acquis, although at a limited pace, largely due to the issues of migration and the coup. We need to keep these facts in mind when assessing the situation.

In this regard, I would like to turn to the main point – the call to formally suspend the accession negotiations with Turkey. I would like to ask Ms Piri, if this proposal is accepted, what would be the framework of cooperation between the two sides? In your report, on one side you mention the furthering of the customs union and visa liberalization, which I agree is very important, but on the other side you say that all accession negotiations should be stopped. How can we advance if we have frozen negotiations? If we declare commitment to the bilateral dialogue with Turkey, do you think that this scenario would bring us closer to our goals, if we burn all the bridges?

Overall, suspension of the negotiations would directly damage the Turkish civil society and will not contribute to bringing Turkish people closer to the EU, which is something we should not accept. And what kinds of messages are we sending to the civil society, because their opinion is just the opposite – to have more intensive dialogue. Thank you.

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