Cyprus Mail: Opening more chapters for Turkey ‘makes no sense, EP official says
Opening further EU accession chapters doesn’t make any sense while the situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate, said David McAllister, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) and EPP Vice President.
The German MEP and close associate of German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern over the situation in Turkey, but says that dialogue with Ankara needs to be maintained.
McAllister recently concluded a visit to Cyprus, after holding a series of meetings with key players on the island. Speaking to Cyprus News Agency, he said the leaders in Cyprus needed to build on the progress achieved in the last two years and work on all remaining issues, as they try to reach a comprehensive and viable settlement.
Asked about the message he would take back with him to Berlin and Brussels, he said international and European support to the process “ is most welcome” as negotiations in Cyprus enter a crucial phase.
McAllister, who three months ago succeeded another German at the Chair of the EP Committee, Elmar Brok, welcomes the resumption of settlement talks in Cyprus after a two-month intermission, and noted that momentum should be maintained.
When asked, however, about the Turkish demand to extend the four EU freedoms to Turkish citizens, he said this question could only be answered once the exact details were known.
On Cyprus’ rights in its exclusive economic zone, he was asked to comment on the warning, issued recently by the Turkish foreign ministry after energy giants – such as ExxonMobil, Total and ENI – signed drilling contracts with the Cyprus government, McAllister underlined that “there is a need to respect the sovereignty of member states over their territorial, sea and air space” areas.
According to the EP and EPP official, EU member states have sovereign rights, which include the right to enter into bilateral agreements and to explore and exploit natural resources in accordance with EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He added that Cyprus is a “European pillar of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean” and has an important role to play in enhancing the EU’s energy security.
The AFET Chair and EPP Vice President was not as optimistic when it comes to Turkey’s role, particularly after last year’s failed coup attempt. “I am concerned about the deteriorating situation with regard to the rule of law, opposition rights and the freedom of media” in the country, he says.
McAllister added that last year, the European Parliament voted with a large majority to freeze ongoing accession negotiations with Ankara. “With regard to the deteriorating situation in Turkey, it does not make sense to open further chapters” he says, adding, however, that this is up to the member states to decide, not the European Parliament.
The German politician believes however that dialogue on all levels is very important, as Turkey remains an EU neighbour and trade partner. Nevertheless, he said that “we must be clear on our European values, like democracy the rule of law and freedom of speech”.
McAllister visited Cyprus in the context of a dialogue programme of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. He met, among others, with Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, UN Special Adviser on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide and Democratic Rally President Averof Neophytou.