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Kamall: Time for a new EU relationship with Turkey based on honesty

22 November 2016

Kamall: Time for a new EU relationship with Turkey based on honesty

Speaking in the European Parliament this afternoon, Syed Kamall MEP, Leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, called for the EU to have a new and more honest relationship with Turkey.

Speaking in the European Parliament this afternoon, Syed Kamall MEP, Leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, called for the EU to have a new and more honest relationship with Turkey.

He said that the Turkish governing AK Party still contains many elements that are seeking to marry together Islam, democracy and economic liberalisation, but that President Erdogan’s actions have raised sufficient concerns for most MEPs to unite in saying, ‘enough is enough’.

Whilst recognising that the EU has to consider wider geo-political factors, Dr Kamall said the EU should focus more on an honest partnership with Turkey, rather than trying to apply pressure to Erdogan under a prospect of membership that is unlikely to be realised.

He said:

“Whatever our personal views, the time has come for us all to be honest and open with Turkey.

A country that has seen remarkable economic growth thanks to increasing economic freedom.

Under a governing AK Party that has married together Islam with democracy and economic liberalisation.

There are many who had hoped it could become a model for a new form of “Muslim democracy” in countries across the Middle East and North Africa
Just as “Christian Democracy” developed in Europe.

And I am confident that many members of the AK Party still share this vision.

But, we all have concerns over the actions of President Erdogan.

Had he simply been content to be elected as a ceremonial President, rather than seeking more power as an executive President, there might be a little less criticism.
But what we have seen recently raises serious concerns.

Opponents being arrested, media being closed, minorities being persecuted.

Across this Chamber today, I believe many of us are now united in saying enough is enough.

I fully understand why some politicians here and in our national capitals are reluctant to criticise Erdogan.

I appreciate that there are much wider geo-political factors at play.

Sustaining the EU-Turkey migration deal – after their generosity in hosting three million refugees. Security cooperation. For they too have suffered from terrorist attacks. And not wanting to push Erdogan into Putin’s arms or into a corner.

But we need to be honest with each other.

And in wanting to be honest with Turkey.

We need to be honest with ourselves.

For far too long, we have dishonestly dangled the prospect of EU membership in front of Turkey.

You and I know there are so many reasons why it may not happen in our lifetimes.

Prejudice against a predominantly non-Christian nation, whose land mass is mostly in Asia; Fears over Turkey’s future voting weight in the European Parliament and Council; Concerns over borders with Iran, Syria and Iraq as the EU seeks to extend its Common Security and Defence Policy.

To name just a few reasons.

But the EU continues to pretend that it is business as usual in relations with Turkey.

Yet more sticking plaster across growing cracks.

In common with other groups, the ECR has members that are for, against, and agnostic on the issue of Turkish membership.

But we can all see that the current relationship is not working.

So instead of business as usual, let us build a new relationship based not on false promises, but on honesty. Let us build a new relationship based not necessarily on EU membership but on real cooperation. Let us build a new relationship based not on just fighting today’s fires and problems, but on preparing for the challenges we will all face for decades to come

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