Foreign Affairs Committee publishes report on UK-Turkey relations

The Foreign Affairs Committee’s report considers the Government’s efforts to cultivate Turkey as a “strategic partner” for the UK and to support Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

The report concludes that the Government is right to continue to support Turkey’s accession to the European Union, as long as Ankara meets the accession criteria, and subject to the Government imposing restrictions on the right to free movement from Turkey after it joins.

However, at the moment, shortcomings in Turkey’s justice system are leading to human rights abuses and making it harder to advocate Turkey’s EU membership, the Committee said. The Committee found that the current climate in Turkey is limiting freedom of expression and the media.

Committee Chair Richard Ottaway MP said:

“When we visited Turkey, like many visitors we were struck by the country’s economic dynamism and international ambition; but we were also taken aback by much of what we heard about Turkish legal proceedings and practices, which did not seem to us to ensure the kinds of human rights standards that we would want to see from a country that we want to see inside the EU.

We are pleased that the Turkish government seems to be aware of the shortcomings and to be taking some steps to improve matters. We recommend that the FCO should seek every opportunity to help Turkey in practical ways to achieve further improvements in its human rights practices, including as regards freedom of expression and the media.”

Turkey’s EU accession process is in any case stuck: effectively, it is hostage to the Cyprus dispute. The Committee said that, by undermining the force of EU leverage, the stalemate is having consequences that are detrimental to UK objectives in Turkey across a range of fields, including not only human rights but also energy and market access issues. The Committee found this especially regrettable given that Turkish democracy may be in a critical phase, and given the influence that Turkey may have at the moment over reforming Arab states. The Committee also said that, by creating uncertainty over the timing – if not the fact – of Turkey’s EU accession, the stalemate was discouraging both the EU and Turkey from starting to address some of the most difficult issues that would be involved in Turkey’s EU membership.

The Committee found that the Government’s continuing support for Turkey’s EU membership provided a strong basis for the further development of UK-Turkey bilateral relations, which the Government was correct to be pursuing. The Committee said that there was significant potential to expand UK-Turkey economic and commercial relations; and that as a foreign policy partner Turkey could potentially add value to UK foreign policy.

Source: UK Parliament



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