Turkey won't accept 'second-class privileged partnership' with EU, minister asserts

Ömer Çelik receives the representatives of the EU Reflection Group in Ankara on Jan. 11, 2018. (AA Photo)
Ömer Çelik receives the representatives of the EU Reflection Group in Ankara on Jan. 11, 2018. (AA Photo)

Turkey will not accept a "privileged partnership" with the European Union as some countries have implied recently, the country's Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik has said.

"If we are offered a privileged partnership, we will not even consider it, and simply reject," Çelik told news channel Habertürk on Friday.

German politicians lately proposed the "privileged partnership" for Turkey, instead of a full EU membership.

"No one can offer a second-class status to Turkey in its EU relations," Çelik said, underlining Turkey's clear position on this.

The minister also criticized Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

"Although he is the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, he wants to cut Turkey-EU relations."

The minister's comments come after a draft coalition document prepared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said that it ruled out opening any new chapters in Turkey's EU membership bid, as well as visa liberalization for Turkish citizens and an updated customs union deal for the time being, citing "the situation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights" in the country.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu hasmany times pointed out a lack of mutual trust in Turkey-EU ties, saying the bloc does not "fully understand" the challenges the country has been facing.

In an interview with the Eastwest magazine published on its website on Dec. 30, 2017, Çavuşoğlu said: "The EU's lack of solidarity with the Turkish people following last year's failed coup gave us the impression that the EU does not really fully understand the magnitude and severity of the challenges Turkey has been facing.

"We feel that there are double standards in the EU's criticism of Turkey, in particular when it comes to our fight against terrorism."

The minister said Turkey remains determined to finalize the EU accession process and expects the bloc to reciprocate these efforts.

"Turkey-EU relations have always had ups and downs. What must be clear is that Turkey has always viewed its relationship with the EU and its accession process as a strategic priority for its foreign policy," he said.

The foreign minister also said that in order to "re-establish a trusting relationship", the EU should "honor its promises" on major issues such as the modernization of the customs union, visa liberalization and the full disbursement of financial help promised to cover the cost of Syrian refugees in Turkey.

"The EU should also stop politicizing the accession negotiations which should be purely technical, and lift political and artificial obstacles that have appeared for certain chapters," he said.

Turkey had applied for the EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

However, negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration in the divided island of Cyprus, as well as opposition from Germany and France.

To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations on 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

As of May 2016, 16 chapters had been opened and one concluded. However, in December 2016, the member states said no new chapters will be opened.

Çelik said Turkey wants to open Chapter 23 on the judiciary and fundamental rights and Chapter 24 on justice, freedom and security.

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