Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

2012 progress report on Turkey

Delivered in Plenary - 17th April 2013

Mr President

Turkey is an economic and political powerhouse straddling both Europe and Asia and embedded in both those continents throughout its history and by modern geopolitical and social realities.

Therefore the ECR Group acknowledges Turkey’s importance and seeks to strengthen our ties of partnership with it.

Turkey is a democracy which desires closer European integration while it builds its relationships in the Middle East and Central Asia as well. Indeed, some of those relationships should be warmly welcomed by Parliament. The rapprochement with Israel, in particular, is extremely good news for those of us who support a more stable Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.

Both sides should be congratulated for their efforts. It was also hugely encouraging recently to hear of the recent PKK ceasefire and the start of a dialogue with Öcalan in prison.

Nevertheless, there remain challenges in Turkey and in the EU’s relationship with it. Many of us were extremely disappointed by Turkey’s refusal to cooperate with the Republic of Cyprus’s presidency of the Council last year, and of course it would be extremely difficult to consider Turkish membership of the European Union while the Cyprus recognition issue is unresolved and while Turkey insists on unilaterally recognising the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and not implementing the Ankara Protocols, as it has agreed to do.

There has also been alarm in many quarters at Turkey’s alleged support recently for Salafists in Syria, though of course I welcome its support for the Free Syrian Army and the secular forces combating the Assad regime. This threatens to destabilise that region further and possibly, eventually, Turkey itself. I would finally encourage Turkey to offer greater support to its minorities, such as Christian Syriacs; the issue of LGBT rights also needs to be taken more seriously.

But despite all these problems and challenges, I reiterate that, from the viewpoint of the ECR, Turkey remains a key friend and NATO ally. We must reach out to it in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation and help its people and Government attain the European integration that they seek.