77th meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee – European parliament

The EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) held its 77th meeting in Brussels today under the joint chairmanship of Manolis KEFALOGIANNIS (EPP, Greece) and İsmail Emrah KARAYEL (AKP, Turkey).
The holding of this 77th JPC resumed after a 3 year standstill in inter-parliamentary relations, 3 years during which general conditions seriously declined in Turkey.
It is worthy to consider that 3 of the delegates of the commission’s official list were removed without having been advised.
Those removed, among which Professor Mithat SANCAR, Vice President of Turkey’s Parliament for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and deputy for Mardin Province, and Feleknas UCA,  HDP’s deputy for Diyarbakır, are without surprise members of the People’s Democratic Party and no official statement has been given yet considering the removal. Deputies from the far-right party the MHP have been placed instead.
The Co-Chairs started the meeting by underlining the importance of the JPC as a main platform for inter-parliamentary debate regarding the developments in the EU and Turkey as well as progress achieved in relations between both parts.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee exchanged views on the following subjects:
EU-Turkey relations and state of play of the accession negotiations, EU-Turkey economic cooperation, and Security challenges.
The Committee held an exchange of views with Mr Maciej POPOWSKI, Deputy Director-General in charge of Southern Neighbourhood, Turkey, Migration/Refugees and Security issues, on behalf of the European Commission, H.E Faruk
KAYMAKCI, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Turkey to the EU, on behalf of the Government of Turkey, Ms Emilia KRALEVA, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, on behalf of the Presidency-in-Office of the Council of the European Union and Mr Javier NINO PEREZ, Head of Turkey Division, Europe and Central Asia, on behalf of the European External Action Service.
Several criticisms have been issued by the european side throughout the one day meeting but disagreements among different Turkish political parties seemed to have been set aside in favor of a common voice that defended fiercely against the criticisms of the various interlocutors.

Recurrent remarks concerning the constant and widespread flouting of human rights, the aberrant number of intellectuals and children in prison, the systematically renewed state of emergency and the questioning of democracy as well as the lack of transparency of the judiciary found no appropriate explanations and were received with annoyance by not only the representatives of the AKP regime but also by the delegates of the CHP who are supposed to guarantee the precisely imperiled democracy in the country.

Thus it is mainly deputies of the CHP who lamented the relentless objections of the European parties towards Turkey, not understanding why Europe was so hard on the latter and asking several times for more empathy.
In particular, the high number of imprisonned children was justified by the fact that they usually accompanied their mother, saying that a child’s place was with his mother.
The HDP’s deputies could easily have shown in this case that most of the imprisoned children of the country are in the Kurdish part of the country and are judged independently of their parents.

Another recurrent and collective defense concerned the justification of the excessive use of the state of emergency, which, according to both the AKP and the CHP deputies, was a completely understandable measure given the terrorist threat.
France and the state of emergency declared after the Paris attacks has been the point of reference to justify the misuse of the state of emergency in Turkey which led to a state of unprecedented repression and allowed the state to conduct an authoritarian hunting of freedom of speech. The consideration of a possible link between Turkey and the jihadist forces that have found refuge there by tens of thousands has not been raised at any time by both parties.Turkey has since attacked without foundation the Kurdish forces in Syria who are fighting against the international forces against Daesh.

The question of democracy has been raised many times by the MEPs, including the silencing of the opposition and in particular the lifting of immunity, the dismissal or imprisonment of Kurdish politicians within the parliament, but remarks have also received an echo from a single bloc, the new element being now the new tendency to highlight the success of the “Kurdish” subject in turkish society given the large number of Kurdish representatives in high spheres of politics or economics.
However, no voice was expressed on about 100 mayors of Kurdish cities who were also jailed since 2016 and  replaced by central government officials, nor were mentioned systematical destructions of Kurdish cities since the same period. The second part of the meeting focused on violations of the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus and the customs union.

The meeting ended with both party co-chair agreeing on putting all their efforts to develop an open and constructive dialogue between the European Parliament and the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
Both sides acknowledge that the JPC should be meeting regularly-up to three times per year- as indicated in its Rules of Procedure, and work towards improved political relations between the EU and the candidate country.
The co-chairs closed the meeting by stating that they strongly believe that EU-Turkey cooperation on common challenges and shared priorities represents an investment in the stability and prosperity of both Turkey and the EU and look forward to an intensified cooperation in the nearest future.