Turkey must make progress on the rule of law and human rights before expecting concessions from the EU, former EU ambassador and head of delegation to Turkey, Marc Pierini, said.
The ongoing imprisonment of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas and the human rights defender Osman Kavala, are the most prominent human rights issues facing Turkey, Pierini told Avhval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar in an interview for Hot Pursuit podcast.
Such issues, Pierini said, must be addressed before the bloc can negotiate on Ankara’s demands, which include renewal of the customs union and EU funding for the facilitation of Syrian refugees in the country.
Pierini also weighed in on an incident during this week’s visit to Ankara by EU chiefs, which saw Ursula Von der Leyen left standing without a seat as Michel and Turkish president took the two available chairs.
Von der Leyen was eventually seated far away, across Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Pierini maintains this was not just a blunder, but a “deliberate gesture” by the president, in the same vein as his decision last month to exit the Istanbul Convention, a treaty aimed at protecting women.
In Germany, the EU chief will be criticized harshly over this incident, Pierini said, because “trying to please Turkey was a risky business.”
Von der Leyen was told not to go, and she will be told that she “paid the price” for her visit, he said.
The Turkey-approach by the EU is to build carefully on the so-called “positive momentum” on a conditional, incremental and reversible manner, Pierini said.
According to the former EU ambassador, the broadest issue at stake from the European point of view is the legitimacy of the concessions that the EU is going to make to Turkey.
“This is heavily under question”, he said, adding, “The EU has not seen any movement from Turkey so far except from withdrawing the frigates who accompany the gas-seeking research ships in the Aegean Sea.”
This is deemed too little by the EU, Pierini said, as the whole of Europe looks on, because two major elections in Germany and France are going to take place in the course of one year.