Juncker says gov't moving away from EU, urges support for opposition

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 02.10.2017 19:29

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has blamed Turkey for distancing itself from Europe with giant steps, highlighting the need for strengthening Europe-leaning circles within the country.

"There is a huge population in Turkey that sides with Europe. We need to strengthen that circle and not disappoint them," Juncker said during an interview with German Bild newspaper.

Junker stated that Europe should not be considered responsible for the failure of Turkey's full EU membership negotiations, claiming that Turkey has been taking major steps to move away from Europe.

The future of Turkey's EU bid has been widely discussed, as relations between the EU and Ankara took a dip after some EU member states, such as Germany, call for the ending of Turkey's accession talks, accusing the country of showing disregard for European values.

As a result of the steps being taken by the government, Turkey will not become an EU member in the foreseeable future, Juncker said last month.

Touching on Turkey's relations with the EU, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during the opening ceremony in Turkish Parliament to mark the start of the new legislative term on Oct. 1 that Turkey no longer needs to join the EU, adding that Ankara will not, however, be the one to throw in the towel."If the EU wants to take a step forward, the only way to do so is by granting Turkey EU membership, launching economic and cultural expansion that is genuine," the president said. Referring to Turkey's first application for membership in 1959 and the signing of the Ankara Agreement in 1963, Erdoğan underscored Turkey's efforts thus far in terms of membership. "We see that they misunderstand the patience Turkey has shown in the [lengthy] process of EU membership," he said.

As anti-Turkish rhetoric became the main subject of the political debates ahead of the Sept. 24 elections in Germany, Ankara voiced its criticism in response, saying relations between Turkey and Germany has been sacrificed for the sake of gaining votes.

During the run-up to the elections, German party leaders professed that they would suspend or end Turkey's EU accession talks. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she would bring up the issue for discussion with her European counterparts in October. However, some member states, like Hungary, Finland, Lithuania and Ireland, have openly opposed German proposals to suspend talks. In order to suspend the long-stalled membership process, unanimity is required within the EU.

Similar anti-Turkish rhetoric has been used by politicians in Austria, which has political elections slated for October. Ankara has repeatedly called on European countries to stop using Turkey to steer internal politics, reiterating that EU member states should not speak on behalf of the entire EU.

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