Ankara concerned with slow EU accession process as Brussels focuses solely on refugee crisis

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 07.11.2015 00:37

Despite Turkey maintaining its commitments to EU membership and Turkish politicians constantly reiterating that full membership is a strategic goal of the country, a recent letter from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission (EC) president, once again revealed that the EU considers Turkey as a vehicle for alleviating the refugee crisis and not as a country on the path toward full EU membership.

Juncker, from Luxembourg, is among the world leaders who congratulated prime minister and chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Ahmet Davutoğlu, for the party's landslide victory in the Nov.1 elections. The AK Party won 49.5 percent of the national vote. "The high turnout in the election is testament to the vitality of Turkish democracy," Juncker said in a letter to Davutoğlu on Nov.3.

"The European Commission stands ready to work with the future Turkish government across all areas for the benefit of our citizens. In particular, we look forward to making progress on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Action Plan on support of refugees and migration management, which was welcomed by the European Council on 15 October," Juncker said in the letter. Remarkably, Turkey's cooperation with the EU regarding the refugee crisis was the only issue mentioned by Juncker in the letter. Even though Turkey has been a candidate country for EU membership since 2005, Juncker mentioned nothing about the acceleration of Turkey's EU bid, which has stalled due to French and Greek Cypriot vetoes as well as Germany's objections.

In a reply to Junker's letter, Davutoğlu said that enhancing cooperation with the EU in all areas, including migration, would be beneficial for the region as a whole. "I am sure you are aware of the deep disappointment the Turkish people have felt over the past few years with the standstill in the accession process. Steps are needed to be taken by the EU to increase the level of trust and confidence for a common vision. These are times when leadership and political wisdom are most needed," Davutoğlu replied to Junker in a letter on Nov. 4.

"Further dialogue at the highest levels, concrete progress in the accession talks as well as sharing the burden that the recent migrant crisis has caused would certainly strengthen the strategic vision we have for a common future for Turkey and the EU," Davutoğlu said.

Turkey has been continuing negotiations with the EU since 2005, and in the last 10 years only 14 of the 33 chapters of the acquis required for successful membership have been opened with only one provisionally closed. Turkish public support for EU membership has fallen due to the stalled negotiations. The latest U.S. German Marshal Fund (GMF) annual survey results found that only 41 percent of the Turkish public supports Turkey's EU bid. This number in 2014 was 45 percent.

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