EU free speech freedoms will not be trimmed to save a deal with Turkey on migrant flows, says European Commission President Juncker. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants a German satirist prosecuted.
Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament Wednesday that dialogue was the only way to resolve issues with Turkey, including Ankara's demand that satirist Jan Böhmermann be prosecuted in Germany for insulting Erdogan.
"One thing is clear to me - no matter how important the work for refugees may be, our values on press freedoms and fundamental values do not change," Juncker said in Strasbourg, referring to fallout from two satirical inserts about Erdogan on German public television channels NDR and ZDFneo.
"I cannot understand at all that a German ambassador is summoned for an admittedly difficult satirical song," said Juncker, referring tothe first German broadcast that lampooned Erdogan.
Böhmermann delivered his crude poem about Erdogan on ZDFneo on March 31, saying his intention was to test legal limits on free speech in the wake of the satirical song on NDR.
Only dialogue would help resolve such issues with Turkey, Juncker told parliament.
Merkel not going to Turkey
According to German law, the government can decide whether or not to prosecute for insulting foreign leaders.
The German Social Democrats called for the law to be scrapped, describing it as "antiquated" and limiting to freedom of speech. At the same time, the chancellor's spokesman said that decision on Erdogan's case "will be made" regardless of whether the law is changed.
Spokesman Steffen Seibert also denied Ankara's claims that Chancellor Merkel was planning a trip to Turkey to open a new refugee camp on the Syrian border.
"I have been asked a half dozen times in the last days and weeks about this trip on April 16 and never confirmed this trip, this appointment, and that is still the case," Seibert told reporters.
On March 18, the EU and Turkey concluded a deal to ease Europe's largest arrivals of migrants since World War II.
Since April 4,migrants in Greece are being returned to Turkey
from where 72,000 vetted asylum seekers are to be forwarded to EU nations.
For its cooperation, Turkey was promised acceleration of its long-stalled bid for EU membership, the doubling of refugee aid, and visa-free travel by June for Turkish nationals to Europe's Schengen passport-free zone.
In parliament Wednesday, liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt urged EU Council of Ministers President Donald Tusk to check reports by Amnesty International and Dutch television that refugees' rights were not being respected in Greece and Turkey.
The group leader for parliament's left parties, Gabi Zimmer, accused Tusk and Juncker of not doing enough to ensure that proper legal handling of refugees.
From Brussels Wednesday, Reuters news agency said Juncker and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would meet in Strasbourg next week to discuss the implementation of the migration deal.
It quoted an EU official as saying Juncker and Davutoglu were both due to speak at the plenary session of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on April 19.
ipj/dj/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)