EU unlikely to halt Turkey's accession talks

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 28.04.2017 21:49

Although the European Parliament's (EP) Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri and European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn called on the EU to immediately suspend Turkey's accession, Hungary and Greece think it "would be irrational" to end to the negotiations.

Thus, despite the obstacles, Turkey's accession negotiations will likely continue as the EU member states must reach a unanimous vote to block negotiations.

Earlier in the week, European Commissioner for EU Enlargement Johannes Hahn called on EU foreign ministers to consider ending Turkey's accession process. Like Hahn, EP's rapporteur Kati Piri suggested suspending negotiations if Ankara does not pledge to refrain from applying the constitutional changes that were approved by the Turkish nation in the April 16 referendum.

"The EU is closing its doors on Turkey but Turkey isn't closing its doors on anybody. If they are not sincere in their actions, we have to find a way out. Why should we wait any longer? We're talking about 54 years," he said, referring to the 1963 Ankara Agreement that acknowledged the long-term goal of Turkish membership with a united Europe.

However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday urged "constructive dialogue" between Turkey and the EU, and turned down the calls of the opposition to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks and called for cooperation with Ankara. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday that such a step would be counterproductive, indicating: "The German government is strictly opposed to the cancellation of accession talks and that would totally be the wrong reaction," speaking to reporters in Malta.

On the other hand, Greece, Lithuania and Hungary urged caution, saying the EU needs to maintain dialogue with Ankara, especially because it depends on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's help in keeping a lid on the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe. George Katrougalos, the Greek alternate minister of foreign affairs, said Thursday that halting EU accession talks with Turkey would be a "big mistake."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged support, saying that stability in Turkey is crucial for the EU. Speaking at a press conference after his speech at the EP session on Wednesday, Orban said he congratulated President Erdoğan after the referendum result, emphasizing the importance of Turkey's stability in regards to Europe.

In addition, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius stated that "Turkey is a key country in the region and we have to stay engaged, we have to talk and we have to listen."

From the Turkish side, President Erdoğan underlined on Tuesday that Turkey is still committed to negotiations: "There is not a single thing that we are not ready to do, the minute they ask for it. Whatever they wish, we do. However, they are still keeping us waiting at the door," he said. Erdoğan also indicated that the EU needs a country like Turkey that is a different country symbolizing a different faith.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu arrived in Malta yesterday to attend the EU's Gymnich meeting at the invitation of the EU's high representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and George Vella, the foreign minister of Malta, who currently holds the EU presidency. Ahead of the meeting in Malta, the EU's Mogherini responded to questions from members of the media, touching upon the significance of Turkey while vowing to protect relations with the country. "We will discuss our relations with Turkey," Mogherini said, adding: "Turkey is not only a candidate country [for EU membership] but is an important NATO ally at the same time." Drawing attention to the significance of Turkey, Mogherini said that the country "is a member of the EU Council and plays a very important role in the region. We will discuss the latest developments in the country with Turkish Minister [Çavuşoğlu] as well."

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