German Chancellor Angela Merkel has advised the EU to be clear in its criticism of Turkey, stressing that the 28-nation bloc should do it with discretion.
Speaking to the German daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger in an exclusive interview, German Chancellor Merkel said that the EU should act wisely while criticizing Ankara, noting: "We [the EU] must be clear in our criticism, there is no question," Merkel said, adding that Europe "must also be wise, because a good relationship with Turkey is in our own interests."
The German chancellor stressed that the EU should collectively discuss what kind of an attitude the bloc will take in approaching Turkey and offered her own argument, saying that Turkey is a NATO member and a partner in many areas and will remain so.
Merkel also called Turkey a "significant ally" in the fight against terror and emphasized that Ankara has helped the EU in solving problems in Iraq and Syria. The German chancellor emphasized that Europe should not easily give up on such a partner.
Chancellor Merkel also commented on the Turkey-EU migrant deal, stressing that Turkey has already welcomed more than three million Syrian migrants, saying that it is certainly justified for Ankara to seek financial assistance from the EU.
"The Turkey-EU [migrant] deal is an agreement that is especially in the interest of refugees and we also need such solutions with other countries," she said.
Meanwhile, regarding Turkey's bid for EU membership, European Parliament (EP) rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri said that opening a new chapter on negotiations between the EU and Turkey is out of question: "If Turkey is really interested in accession, it is necessary for Ankara to show it," Piri told Die Welt, adding that the EU does not intend to be threatened by Turkey or any other country for membership. "If they [Turkey] are willing to enter the EU, they are obliged to meet the criteria. However, I absolutely don't see this [happening] in Turkey. That's why it is necessary for talks to be suspended," she said.
The migrant deal was forged between the EU and Turkey in March last year when the two agreed on a plan to stop migration through illegal channels across the Aegean Sea by cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to take back all Syrians who crossed to the Greek islands illegally from Turkey, while the EU promised to take in the same number of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
The agreement also called for a visa waiver for Turks visiting EU member states. While the migrant deal was successful in reducing the flow of refugees, it did not have the same effect on Turkey's EU accession bid, as the European Commission demanded that Ankara fulfill the seven outstanding criteria for accession from the total 72, including the "revision of legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards." Ankara has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of revising its counterterrorism laws.
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