Following a Reform Action Group (RAG) meeting in August, Turkey has ramped up efforts to implement various reforms as part of its accession talks with the European Union. The country is expected to introduce a new reform package next month.
In an interview with the German Süddeutsche Zeitung on Nov. 26, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that EU membership remains a key objective for Turkey and it will take reform steps to accelerate the process.
"The Justice Ministry will introduce a reform package mid-December," said the foreign minister, referring to criticisms surrounding long detention periods and a number of other judicial issues.
He stressed that Turkey is ready to mend ties with some EU member states. It has also promised to fulfill reforms to revive its EU process and called on leaving behind corrosive rhetoric in talks.
The fourth meeting of the RAG was held on Aug. 29 in Ankara at the Directorate for European Union Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the chairmanship of Çavuşoğlu and with the participation of Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
A Foreign Ministry statement after the meeting said that steps in the judiciary will continue in the forthcoming period on the basis of the Judicial Reform Strategy (2015-2018), which is currently being implemented and is planned to be updated. "The aim of the new strategy is to further enhance trust in the judiciary, improve access to the justice system, increase its effectiveness and provide better protection for the right to trial within a reasonable time," the statement added.
‘Most fruitful meeting
in many years'Commenting on the recent Turkey-EU High-Level Political Dialogue Meeting in Ankara with EU officials, Çavuşoğlu said that it can be seen as a new beginning in Turkey's EU membership process, underscoring that "I can tell you it was the most fruitful meeting with EU officials in the last four or five years."
Last week, Çavuşoğlu held talks with Federica Mogherini, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security, and Johannes Hahn, EU Commission vice president and commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.
In a joint press conference last week, Çavuşoğlu called on the EU to be more supportive of Turkey in its fight against terrorism. Mogherini, on the other hand, said Turkey is a key partner and the EU aims to increase cooperation with the bloc.
"The EU wants a strong Turkey and strong cooperation with it. This is our objective. We want Turkey to be stable, prosperous and democratic, as a neighbor that we can work hand in hand in a region of strategic importance for both of us," Mogherini underlined.
Çavuşoğlu in his interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung reiterated Turkey's aim of achieving full EU membership. "If the EU does not want this it should tell us," Çavuşoğlu said.
He added that "in 2016 we signed the refugee deal. The EU promised then to provide 3 billion euros and open five chapters including justice and security. Yet following a short period of time, the commission decided not to open new chapters." Criticizing the approach of the EU, Çavuşoğlu said, "It is against the agreement."
Turkey and the EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the inflow of refugees to Europe, considered unbearable by the EU. Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased by 99 percent; thus, it also prevented the loss of many lives at sea.
The deal included a 6 billion euro aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted by the country, and the EU promised to initially allocate 3 billion euros in its first tranche for projects to support Syrian refugees. The deal was also to provide visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area and accelerate Turkey's EU negotiations. In relation to the implementation of the agreement, Ankara has been stressing that it has been doing its part and the EU should also fulfill its promises.
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