Opening more chapters for Turkey “makes no sense”, EP and EPP senior official tells CNA

Opening further EU accession chapters doesn’t make any sense while the situation in Turkey continues to deteriorate, says 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 expresses concern over the situation in Turkey, but says that dialogue with Ankara needs to be maintained.

McAllister concluded recently a visit to Cyprus, after holding a series of meetings with key players on the island. Speaking to Cyprus News Agency, he said that leaders in Cyprus need 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 takes back with him to Berlin and Brussels, he says that 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 notes that momentum should be maintained.

When asked, however, about the Turkish demand to extend the four EU freedoms to Turkish citizens, he says that this question can only be answered once the exact details are known.

He is more pronounced when it comes to Cyprus’ rights in its exclusive economic zone. 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 underlines 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 adds 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 is 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 adds 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.

Speaking about the tension that erupted in Ankara’s relations with Western European countries during the Turkish referendum campaign and the “Nazism” accusations that were directed against Germany and the Netherlands, McAllister says “they were completely unacceptable” and have been clearly rejected.

The German politician believes however that dialogue on all levels is very important, as Turkey remains an EU neighbor and trade partner. Nevertheless, he says that “we must be clear on our European values, like democracy the rule of law and freedom of speech”.

Asked about the future of the EU, McAllister says that while single market rules should apply to all member states, the multi-speed scenario – one of the options presented last month by European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker ahead of the Rome Treaties’ anniversary – should be available to member states who wish to cooperate more closely in some areas.

He dismisses the notion that the EU is made according to German rules and that there will be less solidarity for Southern European countries in the future, noting that a united Europe means more solidarity and stability. “I strongly believe in a European Germany and not in a German Europe” McAllister underlines.

Asked by CNA about the Greek bailout talks, he says the process is on the right track, but work remains to be done. Greece needs to regain access to the financial markets in order to meet its financial requirements and this is why Athens needs to implement the necessary reforms to remain on a sustainable path, says the German MEP.

When asked finally about Germany’s forthcoming elections in September, McAllister appears certain that Angela Merkel will secure a fourth term. “The Chancellor is ?a great leader with international experience” he says, adding that Germany needs a stable and active government, which can provide guidance through these challenging times.

McAllister visited Cyprus in the context of a dialogue program 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.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third. UN-backed talks aim to reunite the island under a federal roof.

President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met on Tuesday, after a nearly two-month break, after Akinci had walked out of the talks back in February.

Source: Cyprus News Agency