Civil society representatives from both the EU and Turkey called on Turkish authorities to undertake major reforms in the fields of rule of law and human rights as a prerequisite to resume accession negotiations with the EU. This was one of the main conclusions of the 38th meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) held in Brussels on 8 and 9 April, which also agreed on the important role of the JCC as an open channel for exchanges at civil society level.
Turkey is a strategic partner for the EU and has been a candidate country to join the European Union since 1999. However, political developments in Turkey have hampered its relations with the EU. Panagiotis Gkofas and Rifat Hisarciklioğlu, co-chairs of the JCC in representation of the EESC and Turkish civil society organisations, respectively, highlighted the important role of the EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee and its work as an open channel for exchanges at civil society level.
Myriam Ferran, Director of DG NEAR of the European Commission, encouraged Turkish Government to undertake major democratic reforms in the fields of human rights and rule of law:
Accession negotiations are de facto frozen, but this is not irreversible; we are looking forward to engaging with a free and democratic Turkey which adheres to the values of the EU. Faruk Kaymakci, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs of Turkey replied that the decision to suspend the accession negotiations sends
the wrong message, as it's the prospect of accession what makes Turkey a modern country.
The JCC members also discussed other important aspects of the relations EU-Turkey relations, such as the role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in bilateral trade. Both sides highlighted the need for specific measures to facilitate SMEs activities, particularly the liberalisation of visas for Turkish citizens, as visas constitute one of the main non-tariff barriers to trade.
The role of civil society organisations (CSO) was also addressed by JCC members, who agreed that Turkey must recognise the involvement and the role of independent civil society as part of the country's democratic process and needs to promote civil society organisations' fundamental rights and freedoms.