EU, Turkey chal­lenge each other to de­cide on mem­ber­ship bid

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

In the face of in­creas­ing crit­i­cism and wors­en­ing re­la­tions, the Euro­pean Union and Turkey ar­gued yes­ter­day over whether Ankara’s bid to join the EU should con­tinue.

In a high-stakes game of po­lit­i­cal chicken, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan said the EU wouldn’t be able to reach the “fi­nal point” and end its ties with Turkey out of fears of jeop­ar­dis­ing a deal to curb the flow of mi­grants from Africa and the Mid­dle East to Europe.

Hours later, in Brus­sels, EU En­large­ment Com­mis­sioner Jo­hannes Hahn bluntly said that “it is time Ankara tells us what they re­ally want,” in the wake of a re­port as­sess­ing Turkey’s sta­tus as a can­di­date for mem­ber­ship that high­lighted what the EU saw as back­slid­ing on es­sen­tial hu­man rights and rule of law stan­dards.

The re­port, is­sued yes­ter­day, came af­ter Turkey’s clam­p­down on me­dia free­doms and the ar­rests of 10 pro-Kur­dish leg­is­la­tors.

“Th­ese var­i­ous ac­tions, in­clud­ing con­sid­er­a­tions of rein­tro­duc­ing the death penalty, seem to be in­creas­ingly in­com­pat­i­ble with Turkey’s of­fi­cial de­sire to be­come a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union,” Hahn said.

“In its own in­ter­est, Turkey ur­gently needs to stop mov­ing away from the EU,” Hahn said.

In the es­ca­lat­ing stand­off on Turkey’s pro­tracted mem­ber­ship bid, Er­do­gan rose to the chal­lenge.

“They say un­abashedly and shame­lessly that the EU should re­view its ne­go­ti­a­tions with Turkey,” Er­do­gan told a busi­ness group in Is­tan­bul. “You are late, go and re­view them as soon as you can. But don’t just re­view them — go and make your fi­nal de­ci­sion.”

The Turk­ish leader added: “You know those 3 mil­lion refugees in Turkey? They say there is a prob­lem. What if the ne­go­ti­a­tions end and they open the gates, where would we put those 3 mil­lion refugees? That is their worry. That is why they can­not come to the end point.”

Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu said the EU had to stop its “threat­en­ing” at­ti­tude.

“Make a de­ci­sion, brother!” Cavu­soglu said. “If you want the ne­go­ti­a­tions to stop, then stop them. If you want them to con­tinue we are ready. But you have to treat us as equal part­ners. We can­not ad­vance as long as you see us as sec­ond-rate coun­try.”

In March, Turkey and the EU reached an agree­ment in which Turkey would stem the flow of mi­grants to Greece in re­turn for in­cen­tives in­clud­ing fast­tracked mem­ber­ship talks, bil­lions of eu­ros in aid for Syr­ian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turk­ish ci­ti­zens.

The deal has hit a hur­dle over Turkey’s re­luc­tance to change its anti-ter­ror­ism laws — one of the con­di­tions for the lift­ing of visa re­stric­tions on Turk­ish ci­ti­zens trav­el­ing to Europe.

On Tues­day, Jean-Claude Juncker, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, warned Turkey that its crack­down on po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and the me­dia goes against EU val­ues.

He too called on Er­do­gan to im­me­di­ately say “whether Turkey re­ally wants to be — yes or no — a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union.” He added that the Turk­ish leader would only have him­self to blame if the EU does not grant visa-free travel in Europe to Turk­ish ci­ti­zens soon.

Turkey has been in talks to join the Euro­pean Union since Oc­to­ber 2005, but progress has been held up, of­ten by po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion and par­tic­u­larly due to re­sis­tance from Cyprus, an EU mem­ber. The Mediter­ranean is­land has been di­vided since 1974, when Turk­ish troops oc­cu­pied its north­ern third fol­low­ing a coup by sup­port­ers of a union with Greece.

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