Chief of European Parliament Martin Schulz says Turkey’s new constitution must be compatible with the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, extending his support for Turkey’s membership bid in the 27-nation club.
Schulz told reporters at a news conference on Monday as he wrapped up his Turkey trip that it is important for the EU that the new constitution being drafted by lawmakers be in full compliance with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
This is Schulz's first trip outside of EU member states since he took on the position of EP head in January. His trip comes at a time when Turkey and the EU signalled that they are determined to revive membership talks, which have stalled over the deadlock in Cyprus and French opposition to Turkey’s accession under former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The first talks of the EU Commission-launched “Positive Agenda” plan, a framework for bringing new momentum to Turkey's stalled EU accession process, commenced in Ankara two weeks ago. Out of 35 chapters in the process, 13 have been opened, 17 are blocked, four have not been opened yet and one is provisionally closed -- the science and research chapter. The new dialogue is intended to give new life to Turkey’s EU process amid recent political developments in Europe which could be seen as benefiting Turkey.
Despite a positive momentum in EU-Turkey talks, it is likely that Turkey will freeze its relations with the EU as Greek Cyprus, not recognized by Ankara, is preparing to take over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency on July.
Schulz said that during his meetings with Turkish officials he urged that Turkey recognize the reality: "the Cyprus Republic is a member of the EU.” He added that he doesn’t know if Turkey will suspend the Positive Agenda talks launched by EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle due to the Greek Cypriot EU presidency. "It is up to Turkey to decide if they suspend themselves from realizing this Positive Agenda in the next six months. I have a lot difficulties to believe that it will happen," Schulz said, adding that he doesn’t know if other chapters will be opened.
He said he noted that the Turkish government and Füle agreed not to immediately suspend talks once Greek Cyprus takes over the presidency.
Speaking about Turkey’s possible EU membership, Schulz said he supported Turkey’s joining the 27-member bloc for many years. He added that while there are issues that Turkey and the EU must resolve, there are also things that the EU must handle.
He said he and Turkish officials discussed the state of Turkey-EU membership talks, visa facilitation talks, the Greek Cyprus' EU term presidency, the constitutional reform process in Turkey and domestic debates concerning it.
Following a question with respect to imprisoned Turkish deputies, Schulz said he raised the issue in talks and urged his interlocutors to look carefully at the conditions under which the parliamentarians were being detained and the premise for the trials.
In response to a question on whether he was concerned over freedom of the press in Europe, Schulz said he has always criticized restrictions on the media. "Freedom of media is a world-wide problem, not only in one country," he said.
Pointing to the concerns expressed regarding freedom of the press in Turkey, Schulz said: "If we raise media concerns in Turkey, it is not to blame Turkey, it is because we raise it whenever, wherever such problems appear.