Turkey ‘moves away from Europe’
The European Union appeared divided and weak during the visit of its two presidents to Ankara, according to the chairman of the European People’s Party parliamentary group, Manfred Weber.
In this exclusive interview with Kathimerini, Weber, who will be among the speakers at the Delphi Economic Forum in mid-May, notes that Turkey is “moving away” from European values and that there is no reason at the moment. to launch a positive program.
Regarding the digital green certificate, he says there is an urgent need for it to be activated as quickly as possible, that it only recognize vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency and that its holders be exempt from any quarantine requirements. .
Should the two presidents’ visit to Ankara have taken place? Are the conditions for a positive agenda with Turkey met?
The trip was intended to send a signal of strength to Ankara following the findings of the [March] European Council. Instead, we sent a signal of division, of inability to stand on the world stage. And it was particularly negative that Ursula von der Leyen was treated the way she was after Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention. We are far from the promise of a “geopolitical Europe”. Our request to the Council and the Commission is to coordinate in the future so that this does not happen again.
Is there a better understanding in Europe today, compared to early 2020, of the value gap between it and Turkey and the divergent pursuits on both sides in matters of foreign policy?
It is obvious that Turkey is moving away from Europe and its values - rule of law, media freedom, independence of the judiciary. The Italian Prime Minister has been the most frank on this subject, but everyone recognizes it. This is the substance – and this is why, for me, it is clear that we cannot open a new chapter with Turkey, we cannot talk about visa liberalization or the modernization of the customs union. The first step is to restore confidence, to see the end of provocations. The coming weeks will make it clear whether it makes sense to have such discussions. [relating to the positive agenda].
Regarding the digital green certificate, what are the main disagreements between the European Parliament and the Council?
The most important thing is that we have to deliver. We have already lost so much precious time – [Greek Prime Minister] Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented this idea in January and the Commission took too long to present its proposal. The underlying idea is to avoid the fragmentation of the European Union.
On the issues, for us, it’s clear that we need to strengthen our regulators – and that means we should only accept vaccines approved by the EMA for the certificate. Sputnik V has not been approved by the EMA – at least not yet – so it cannot be recognized as a real shield against the pandemic. Secondly, it is essential that when Europeans ask what the certificate will bring them in their daily life, we can give them an answer. That is why we insist that the certificate re-establishes freedom of movement in the EU. Rights must be fully restored when the reasons for their reduction are no longer valid. We hope that the Council will give in on these two points and we can vote on the final form of the certificate in the May plenary.
What about travel from third countries – a front on which Greece has taken unilateral action? Will there be a coordinated approach? And will it be in place over time?
We are currently moving from an approach based on regions and the epidemiological picture to a personalized approach, similar to that adopted in the EU. However, it is crucial to have reciprocity – for example, if it is decided that Americans who have been vaccinated can travel to Europe, Europeans who have been vaccinated should also be able to travel to the United States. In addition, the condition of vaccines approved by the EMA should also apply to visitors from third countries.
What was the biggest mistake the EU made in procuring vaccines? Do you see the narrative changing as the vaccination campaign intensifies?
Europe has made mistakes, and we must admit that. Perhaps most importantly, we have been somewhat naive in our confidence in the signed agreements and in the rules-based approach of countries in the western world. The United States and Britain have not followed the approach of international supply chains and open markets. They acted in a nationalist way, in a selfish way, while Europe continued to export. The success of British vaccines would not have been possible without deliveries from Europe.
But we have learned our lessons. We have established the principle of reciprocity – we don’t deliver to Britain if they don’t deliver to us. We set the stage for a significant increase in production in the fall, when new mutant variants of the virus may appear. The new contract with Pfizer and BioNTech is a very positive development. At the same time, it is important that we now have the tools to block vaccine exports if the exporting company or the destination country does not behave properly towards Europe.