A delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee for External Relations, headed by Elmar Brok, participated in a series of talks in Ankara between March 16 and March 18.
The Commission’s delegation was composed as follow:
“Turkey has taken great moves in the economic field over the past 10 years. But we see problems in freedom of expression and media freedom. We asked questions regarding these matters,” Brok said before urging the Turkish government to revisit the security bill to take individual liberties into account.
The bill proposes that anyone who takes part in public demonstrations or rallies with their faces partly or totally covered to conceal their identity could face sentences of between two-and-a-half to four years in prison. It also gives police officers the authority to detain anyone on the street considered to be a public disturbance, or a threat to security or private property.
When asked about the prospect of Turkey’s EU membership, Brok placed emphasis on the negotiation chapters about justice and democracy, subjects of particular importance for Brussels.
“Everyone candidate must complete the negotiation process and meet the criteria. We, especially, hope for the opening of the justice and democracy chapters, to assess the progress Turkey has or hasn’t made.”
Brok said common concerns shared by Turkey and the EU were the chief motive for the delegation’s visit to Ankara, which sought to hammer out coordinated responses to those challenges.
Brok said the ongoing settlement process aimed at producing a lasting solution to the decades-old Kurdish question in Turkey is also among the topics he discussed with Davutoğlu, stressing the importance of political efforts to find a peaceful solution to the issue.
During the visits of different political parties, the delegation met with the head of external relations of the HDP Nazmi Gür and the HDP deputy of the city of Mersin Ertuğrul Kürkçü.
Turkey-EU relations, the upcoming parliamentary elections on June 7 and the negotiation process currently underway were discussed. According to deputy Gür, the AKP government is preparing for a rollback phase on democratization in general and expressed in this context dissatisfaction about the new draft law on the security package. He explained that the resolution process was also stalled and that the AKP was using distraction and falsehood in the same way as it did with the Europe/Turkey relations, noting at the same time that the AKP was currently in a prospect of removal from the perspective of his accession.
“The probability of not exceeding the 10% national threshold is very low, but if we do not overcome this undemocratic and discriminatory threshold, this would cause early elections because it would mean that about 30% of the voters will not be represented in the national parliament. In addition, it would mean that the only negotiating partner for the resolution of the Kurdish issue will be out in the parliament, this will lead to block all kinds of negotiations. From our side, we will continue to wage a struggle for a democratic and pluralistic Turkey “.
A part of the group later took part in another delegation in the Kurdistan Regional Government to meet the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa and several KRG heads of institutions.
The EP delegation was composed by Mr. Afzal Khan, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, Ms. Jana Hybaskova, EU Ambassador in Iraq and members of the European Parliament, Mr. Juan fernando López Aguilar and Mr. Eldar Mamadov, foreign policy advisor to Social-Democratic (S&D) group in the European Parliament. The Kurdish side was represented by Mr. Karwan Jamal, Deputy Head of DFR and Delavar Ajgeiy, KRG Representative to the EU also attended the meeting.
The EU delegation highly praised the role of the Kurdish military forces Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS terror and commented on KRG’s efforts in caring for over 1.5 million refugees and displaced people in the Kurdistan Region, regardless of their ethnic and religious background.
Minister Falah Mustafa briefed the delegation on the latest military developments on the ground, the needs of refugees and displaced people in the Kurdistan Region as well as the political challenges in Iraq, including Erbil-Baghdad relations. Minister Mustafa also outlined ways in which relations between the EU and the Kurdistan Region can be strengthened. He said, “We would like to see increased engagement from the European Parliament and the European Union to help Iraq move in the right direction.”
Both sides highlighted the importance of the EU having a representative office in Kurdistan and assistance from the EU to ensure that the Kurdistan Region benefits from the cooperation agreements signed between Iraq and the EU. Ambassador Hybaskova announced that the European Union Office will soon be opened in Erbil in order to further cooperation between the EU and KRG.