EU to relaunch membership talks with Turkey
23.10.13 @ 09:21
BRUSSELS - The stalled EU membership talks with Turkey are set for relaunch after member states agreed accession negotiations would recommence on 5 November.
“After more than a three-year break, negotiations are regaining momentum, and I hope to see steady and speedy progress,” Linas Antanas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s minister of foreign affairs, said Tuesday (22 October).
Linkevicius said the three-year hiatus was due to a lack of agreement among member states.
Talks were initially scheduled for June but were postponed following a violent police crackdown on anti-government protests that kicked off in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in summer before rapidly spreading to other cities.
Over 3,000 were arrested. Six people died, including one police officer, while thousands of others were injured, some severely.
Turkey’s accession negotiations started in 2005, although its EU candidate status was granted back in 1999.
Some 35 individual chapters covering different policy aspects must be finalised before full membership.
So far, 13 have been opened, but progress has been slowed by member state objections, largely due to Turkey’s frozen conflict with EU member state Cyprus.
Only one chapter, on science and research, has been provisionally closed.
The stand-off was further complicated when Turkey temporarily froze relations with the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2012 because Cyprus took the presidency helm.
The new thaw in relations means ministers in November will focus on a chapter dealing with regional policy and structural instruments with Turkey.
A European Commission progress report, released last week, noted that Turkey has moved forward on regional policy.
It noted that the government said it wants to step up democratic and political reforms.
But major challenges remain when it comes to human rights.
The report says outstanding issues remain over “gender equality, including access to education and the labour market, political representation, combatting violence against women and early and forced marriages.”
The EU earmarked over €900 million in funds for 2013 alone to help Turkey in its reforms.
The two sides exchanged some €123 billion in bilateral trade in 2012.