Informal summit between European Union and Turkey: Speech by European Parliament President Martin Schulz

| November 30, 2015 | 0 Comments

Martin-Schulz-014“Ladies and gentlemen,

“Today’s (29 November) summit between the European Union and Turkey is an exceptional step: never before has the European Union held a European Council meeting together with a candidate country. This step is more than justified in light of the value we attach to our relationship and the dramatic crisis we are facing together.

“The horrendous civil war in Syria has in its wake created one of the worst humanitarian crises of this century. With well over 200.000 dead and 12 million forced to flee their homes from the brutality of Daesh and from Assad, the country has according to Ban Ki-moon lost the equivalent of four decades of human development and is at risk of losing an entire generation deprived of education and traumatized by war.

Four in five Syrians live in poverty. Unique cultural heritage like the ancient city of Palmyra has been destroyed at the hand of the jihadists. But these crimes against the cultural heritage of mankind pale in comparison to the atrocities committed against human beings. Daesh’s disregard for human life and dignity is unmatched in today’s world. The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Tunis and in Ankara have been a painful reminder that these terrorists are set on exporting their totalitarian ideology and their barbarity to our countries.

“Without doubt, the European Union and Turkey are called upon to together fight terrorism and strengthen security, to together bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and eliminate Daesh as a threat to international security and human life. And let me add, the downing of  the Russian jet cannot be allowed to undermine efforts to join forces in the fight against Daesh and to coordinate the efforts. But we must also deal together with the humanitarian consequences of the Syrian war, especially in managing the refugee crisis in a humane and effective way.      Ladies and gentlemen,  the European Parliament is willing to take responsibility in this crisis and deliver.

“This week the European Parliament has again strongly voiced its disappointment that member states time and again fail to follow- up on their promises and pledges; while the European institutions deliver every step of the way.     Most urgently we must address the dire situation many refugees find themselves in, both within Syria itself and in the countries they have fled. Since the summer, the European Union has taken in huge numbers of refugees. Unfortunately, the task is being shared highly unequally.

“And the obstacles we have already – or still have – to overcome in doing so have only heightened our estimation for the fact that Turkey has kept its borders open for people fleeing the civil war and for its efforts displayed towards the refugees. I myself was very impressed by my visit to the refugee camp Kilis. Yet, only about 15 per cent of the Syrian refugees live in one of the 25 refugee camps. Providing this level of care to all the refugees – 2 million more Syrian refugees are currently in Turkey- indeed is akin to a Herculean task.

“Therefore, the European Parliament wants to support Syrian refugees and persons under temporary protection by funding access to education, health care, public services and the labour market, and this is the objective of the 3 billion Euro Refugee Facility for Turkey for the next two years discussed between Vice- President Timmermans and the Prime Minister Davutoglu.     I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Davutoglu on the 2013 asylum reform, which puts Turkey on a convergence path towards our own EU asylum system. We do hope that you continue on this track, e.g. solving remaining issues including access to the labour market. Access to work and education are key for the future of refugees. If we do not act now we risk losing an entire generation. Children already traumatized by war must get the school education they need and deserve.

“Therefore, the European Parliament has done everything in its power to make much needed funds available: This Wednesday we have adopted an amending budget which will decrease member state contributions for 2016 by €9.4 billion. Out of these “windfall” revenue we want to see €2.3bn devoted to the refugee crisis. So far, the Council until today is not cooperating. In the direction of the EU heads of states assembled around this table I therefore say: please urge your ministers in the Council to agree to dedicate these supplementary funds to humanitarian relief for Syrian refugees. We cannot repeat the same mistakes. This summer the World Food Program run out of money and was forced to decrease its aid to Syrian refugees, because its cries for help went unheard. What a humanitarian scandal! UNHCR Special Representative Antonio Guterres stated that the lack of funding was the trigger for the migration flow reaching Europe in the last months. Surely, we cannot let the cry for help from the Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey go unheard, nor can we fail to assist a close partner like Turkey in dealing with such an enormous challenge.

“That being said I also want to highlight the efforts of two other countries in the region: Lebanon and Jordan are under enormous strain and do deserve our support, too. I would like to raise three more issues on which the European Parliament is committed to achieving progress fast.

“First, the visa liberalization dialogue. The intensive technical preparations on the Turkish side, with EU support, should continue at full speed. Progress in this area is doubly useful also in view of the accession negotiations where visa policy is of course part of the acquis.

“Second, the date of application of the elements of the 2013 EU-Turkey readmission agreement must be brought forward, especially the elements concerning third-country nationals.

“Third, borders. To the EU member states around this table I want to address a very clear message: the Schengen area will only survive if we accept the management of our external borders as our shared responsibility. We must find ways for effective border controls and management. And cooperate operationally as a Union with partners such as Turkey on the management of our borders.

“Prime Minister Davutoglu, please allow me to also address you concerning border issues. During my recent visit to the island of Lesbos I witnessed together with Prime Minister Tsipras a rubber boat struggling through the waves to reach the shore. I was deeply moved by this experience. Yet, on Lesbos this is “business as usual”. We cannot stand by and watch as more refugees put their lives in the hands of ruthless human smugglers. We expect the Turkish government to fight human smuggling and trafficking networks effectively on its territory, including through its coastguard. And we also ask you to secure your border with Syria. About one hundred kilometres of your border with Syria remain in the hands of the murderous gang of the so-called Islamic State. You are as we are affected by movements of foreign fighters, weapons, oil, antiquities into Turkey and from there into the EU. It is our common challenge to cut this terrorist supply route.

“On Cyprus: a sustainable settlement is now within reach. Never before have both sides been so close to a compromise. Therefore, I would like to ask everyone around this table, and also especially you Prime Minister Davutoglu, to back a bi-communal bi-zonal solution for Cyprus. Resolving this conflict will reverberate positively throughout the region and also boost EU-Turkey relations.

“Please allow me to say some words on the accession negotiations between the European Union and Turkey. For many years, negotiations have been stalling because both sides were lacking engagement. Moreover, for many years, EU member states were reluctant to open new chapters in the accession negotiations with Turkey. This reluctance grew out of very good reasons. Free press is one of these reasons. Free press is a cornerstone of a vibrant and pluralist democracy and of an informed and active citizenship. You might disagree with what journalists write or say, but I believe arguments can be stronger than interdictions. The crisis situation we find ourselves in today, which is a real eye-opener on how interdependent we already are, will lead to a fresh start in EU-Turkey relations. This is not about co-operating just for technical reasons or temporary circumstantial reasons. EU-Turkey relations must be a long-term strategic choice.     Thank you for your attention.”

Meeting of heads of state or government with Turkey – EU-Turkey statement, 29/11/2015

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, European Parliament, Northern Cyprus, Speeches, Turkey

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