President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Anne Brasseur visited Ankara on April 8, amid a bid to intensify dialogue and increase the profile of relations between Turkey and European bodies.
The issue of the freedom of expression topped the agenda of Schulz’s visit to Turkey.
Schulz met separately with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek, the Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas.
Officials told Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ that during his meeting with Schulz, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu expressed satisfaction over the recent mutual visits between Turkey and the EU. He also reiterated his expectation that Chapter 17 of Turkey’s stalled EU accession process, on economic and monetary policies, would be opened, after Ankara submitted a position paper to Brussels on March 13.
Also, reportedly on the agenda, were the issues of visa liberalisation, the resumption of talks for the reunification of Cyprus and the negotiations expected to start in 2015 for upgrading the customs union between Turkey and the EU.
Schulz also met with pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy chairman Oktay Vural.
Vural urged Schulz to bring the worsening media freedom onto the agenda of his meetings with government officials. In return, the EP President said that media freedom is always on his agenda and he brings up the subject whenever he meets with his counterparts.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Brasseur met with top officials from the government and opposition parties to hold talks on Turkey’s stalled EU negotiation process on Wednesday.
Brasseur met separately with Bozkir, Cicek and Kilicdaroglu. She met also with Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and afterwards she held contacts with leaders of opposition parties in Turkey before attending a conference at Bilkent University.