I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 45, 51 and 53 together.
I wish to assure the Deputies that I have repeatedly stated my serious concerns about the deteriorating situation in Turkey since the attempted coup on 15 July. My most recent statement of 4 November expressed my deep concern at the arrest of the two co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, HDP, and several of its elected members of parliament, as well as at the intensified media crackdown. I have clearly stated Ireland’s position at the Foreign Affairs Council and the Council of Europe where I engaged directly with the Turkish Foreign Minister, and my officials have drawn my statement to the attention of the Turkish Embassy in Dublin.
I have highlighted the need for a proportionate and measured response by the Turkish authorities, and the importance of upholding the core European values of democracy, respect for rule of law and freedom of expression, including media freedom, the rights of minorities and other fundamental freedoms. Ireland fully agrees with the statements by the European Union that there is no place within the EU for a country which reintroduces the death penalty.
In a strong statement issued on 8 November, the European Union was critical of Turkey’s recent actions and the direction of recent developments and called once again for a resumption of political dialogue with the Kurds. I have also repeatedly called for a return to dialogue to allow the political process to resolve the Kurdish issue to resume, as did my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Dara Murphy during the extensive debate which took place on Turkey at the most recent meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 14 November.
My officials met last week with members of the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, as did a number of Deputies across the House. The HDP representatives presented a very stark case, in particular on the circumstances surrounding the detention of democratically elected representatives from Kurdish areas, the restrictions on the Kurdish media, as stated by Deputy Broughan, and the very negative impact on the daily lives of large numbers of the Kurdish population.
The European Commission published its annual report on Turkey on 9 November. The report is critical of Turkey on the core issues of rule of law and fundamental rights and outlines backsliding in these areas. The report will be discussed at the December meeting of the EU General Affairs Council.
The EU and its member states, including Ireland, are keeping the situation in Turkey under close review in light of the recent very negative trends. The EU is considering how best to influence Turkey and to encourage a commitment to the return of democratic norms and respect in Turkey for basic freedoms. At the same time, Ireland believes that it is important to keep the lines of communication open with Turkey and that we must try to hold open the long-term European perspective for all the people of Turkey.
I am scheduled to meet with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Nils Muižnieks, later this week and will discuss with him his views on the path to take in terms of the commitments of Turkey as a members of the Council of Europe.
The EU-Turkey deal agreed between EU Heads of State and Government and Turkey in March 2016 is not affected by recent events. Turkey continues to play a key role in addressing the migration crisis. The core intention of the agreement between Turkey and EU Heads of State and Government was to break the business model of the people smugglers who are profiting from the suffering of vulnerable migrants. It is particularly aimed at discouraging the victims of people smugglers from risking their lives crossing the Aegean Sea. The very significant decline in the number of people attempting to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands since this agreement entered into force, suggests that in many respects it is achieving its aims.