Turkey refuses to see critical MEPs

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Top EU lawmakers yesterday (16 November) cancelled a visit to Turkey after Ankara refused to see one of the MEPs because of her criticism of Ankara’s massive crackdown following July’s failed coup, a parliament source said.

“The Turks agreed to meet Brok but they did not want to meet Piri” because of the positions she has taken, the source said, asking not to be named.

Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (EPP, Germany) and Kati Piri (S&D, Netherlands), the assembly’s rapporteur on Turkey, had been due to “hold high-level meetings with Turkish authorities and representatives of the opposition and civil society with a view to restore political dialogue”, a separate statement said.

The EU has long been critical of Turkey’s rights record and the coup purge, with tens of thousands of people detained, has strained relations to breaking point as many MEPs back calls for already difficult membership talks with Ankara to be halted.

A spokesman for Piri told AFP that she had recently come to the conclusion it would be best to suspend the negotiations given the situation in Turkey.

The statement said European Parliament head Martin Schulz had talked to the two MEPs and decided “to postpone the visit until Parliament’s prerogatives are respected”.

“Brok and Piri represent the European Parliament and we cannot allow (them) to have a pick-and-choose approach on who speaks to whom,” Schulz said in the statement.

Schulz had previously contacted Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and on Tuesday met EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik to keep channels open, the statement said.

“The European Union remains committed to dialogue. Dialogue however requires the two sides to be willing to talk to each other. I continue to hope that the European Parliament will be able to visit Turkey soon,” Schulz said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly rejected EU criticism of the coup crackdown and on Monday warned the bloc it should decide by the end of the year whether the membership talks should go ahead.

Formal talks began in 2005 but they have made painfully slow progress despite the two sides agreeing to speed up the process in March as part of an accord on curbing migrant flows into Greece.

Kati Piri

Piri (pictured above) was born in Hungary. She went to the Christian Gymnasium in Utrecht between 1991 and 1997. Piri studied the first years of pedagogy at the University of Groningen between 1998 and 2000 and then switched to international relations, graduating in 2007.

Piri worked as a political advisor to the Labour Party delegation in the European Parliament between 2006 and 2008. In that latter year she became political advisor for foreign policy to the European Parliament group the Labour Party is in, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. She worked as an advisor to the delegation working on relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In 2011 Piri worked some months at the Wiardi Beckman Stichting, a think tank linked to the Labour Party. Later that year she became programme manager for the Southern-Caucasus and Moldova at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.

Piri occupied the third place on the Labour Party list for the European Parliament elections of 2014, after Paul Tang and Agnes Jongerius. She cited upholding democratic standards and the respect for human rights as internal motivations to take up the candidacy.She was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014.

In the European Parliament, Piri is member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and member of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. She was part of the parliament’s mission to observe Ukraine’s 2014 parliamentary elections, led by Andrej Plenkovic.

In 2016, Piri drafted the Parliament’s response to the European Commission’s annual progress report on Turkey’s EU membership

Elmar Brok

Elmar Brok is a German Member of the European Parliament and the current Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs.

He was elected on the CDU ticket and sits with the European People’s Party group. An MEP since 1980, he has held many leadership positions in German and European politics.

As a member of the Convention on the Constitution for Europe and in the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Brok is widely credited with contributing crucially to the Constitution of the European Union.

He is currently the President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF).