Speech to the European Parliament Plenary – honesty with Turkey

I made a speech yesterday to the European Parliament about our relationship with Turkey. The European Conservatives & Reformists Group believe we have to acknowledge that there are now big differences between the EU and Turkey, and that EU membership is very unlikely. However, the EU and Turkey need a more honest relationship, based on cooperation, not the distant goal of EU membership to work together on issues of common interest such as trade, security and migration.

You can read the full speech below.

Statement by the VPC/HR – State of play in Turkey, in particular with regard to the constitutional referendum

Let us be honest today

Across this house, most – if not all of us – share concerns over the current direction of the Turkish government and of President Erdogan

Maybe some speakers will try to out compete each other in their condemnations or even their insults.

Yes, we all share concerns over the press freedom in Turkey

Yes, we all share concerns over the treatment of  the opposition and the conduct of the referendum

And we all share concerns over President Erdogan seeking to grab more executive power for what has up to now been a largely a ceremonial presidency.

However, many in this house also realise that at times

We need to work with Turkey

When it comes to controlling the flows of refugees and migrants

We need to work with Turkey

On regional security as an important member of  NATO

We need to work with Turkey as we share concerns over issues such as Russian aggression


In reality, we are talking about a difficult balancing act

And this balancing act needs two things.

Firstly, we need to honest with Turkey that it may never be a member of the EU.

There are too many concerns

Prejudice against a largely Muslim population

A landmass which lies mostly in Asia

The prospect of freedom of movement to millions of Turks

The prospect of voting weights in the Council and here in this parliament

And an EU external border with countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria

Secondly, we need to have a more robust and critical relationship between Turkey and the EU.

But in seeking both, the EU has to ask itself this question.

Is the EU ready for the possible consequences of Turkey opening its borders with Greece and allowing people to transit to the EU?

President Erdogan seeing himself pushed into the arms of countries such as Russia or Iran?

So while Turkey is not ready for EU Membership and not even ready for visa liberalisation

Completely turning our back on Turkey is not an option.


This is why the ECR group welcomes calls for a different kind of relationship with Turkey.

It will be a difficult balancing act, requiring much diplomacy

It may be a more difficult relationship but

It will be a more honest relationship

More cautious

More critical

Focused more on cooperation and no longer on the distant goal of EU membership.

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