“Turkey is and should remain a candidate country, despite the current difficulties in EU-Turkey relations”, Mr Sanchez Amor said.
In meetings with government representatives, party leaders, mayors, parliamentarians and civil society representatives in Istanbul, Gaziantep and Ankara, the rapporteur emphasised the importance of close relations both for Turkey and the EU.
“We need to communicate more and better to overcome the current lack of trust between Turkey and the EU. Therefore, political dialogue should be revived at all levels. I am convinced that it is important to broaden our dialogue, for instance by strengthening the cooperation at local level between municipalities, universities, and other actors. We also need to further strengthen contacts at parliamentary level”, said Mr Sanchez Amor.
Turkey needs to work with the EU on reforms
In order to restore trust, it is important that both sides deliver on their commitments, the rapporteur stressed. “Turkey needs to come back to normality after the exceptional period resulting from the attempted coup of July 2016. I encourage Turkey to work with the EU on reforms to improve the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary and the situation of fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression and the media. On the other hand, the EU needs to maintain a credible accession perspective, based on an objective assessment of the conditions.”
Nacho Sanchez Amor also met with several organisations and EU-funded projects assisting Syrian refugees in Gaziantep. “Turkey has been incredibly generous in hosting four million refugees. We owe gratitude to Turkish society, but also continuous support as long as the need is there.”
The new European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, visited Istanbul, Gaziantep and Ankara this week in the context of his upcoming report on Turkey. It was his first visit to the country in his new capacity.
Among others, the rapporteur met with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, Justice Minister Gul, Interior Minister Soylu, Deputy Foreign Minister Kaymakc?, the leaders of the main political parties, the mayors of Istanbul and Gaziantep, Ekrem Imamoglu and Fatma Sahin, the dismissed mayor of Mardin, Ahmet Turk, as well as with journalists, academics, non-governmental organisations, business and labour representatives. Mr Sanchez Amor also visited the Turkish Grand National Assembly for talks with parliamentary interlocutors and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the attempted coup of July 2016.
The discussions focused on Turkish EU integration, the state of play of EU-Turkey relations, including the prospects for modernising the Customs Union and visa liberalisation, the latest developments in Turkish internal and external policies, judiciary reform, freedom of speech and media, the situation of prominent detained opposition leaders, notably Selahattin Demirtas, and civil society figures such as Osman Kavala, the situation of refugees, and the role of municipalities in the EU-Turkey relations.