Friday

20th Jan 2017

EU-Turkey relations on edge after Germany blocks talks

  • EU Council: Germany and the Netherlands said No (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Turkey has reacted angrily to Germany's hesitation on restarting EU entry talks.

The talks were to resume on Wednesday (26 June), with the opening of a chapter on regions, after negotiations broke off in late 2010.

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But Germany's EU ambassador at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday said he is not willing to give the green light.

An EU official said the Dutch ambassador also placed a "procedural reserve" on the Netherlands' approval, saying he must consult with The Hague before he makes up his mind.

The development comes after Turkey's violent crackdown on street protests over the past two weeks.

But it does not mean that Wednesday's accession talks are definitely cancelled.

The other 25 EU countries and the European Commission are keen to go ahead.

The German government is also divided on the subject.

Chancellor Angela Merkel this week strongly criticised Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, on Thursday said the EU should also open a second chapter - on free speech and freedom of assembly - in reaction to events.

The EU ambassadors will meet again on Monday morning in Luxembourg.

If they cannot agree, EU foreign ministers are likely to tackle the issue at the same venue later in the day.

In the meantime, Turkish officials say they are considering a range of options if Germany upholds its veto.

Potential measures include: withdrawing Turkey's EU ambassador, Selim Yenel, for consultations in Ankara; cancelling joint EU meetings on foreign policy; and cancelling meetings between Turkish MPs and MEPs.

"The reaction in Ankara will I think be quite harsh … I hope common sense will prevail in the EU," a Turkish source told this website.

Another Turkish contact said: "We have fulfilled all the technical conditions [for opening the regions chapter]. So the German objection is political."

For his part, Turkey's EU affairs minister Egemen Bagis told Turkish TV that Merkel is exploiting the situation to win right-wing votes.

"If Mrs Merkel is looking for domestic political material for her elections [in September], that material should not be Turkey," he said.

He likened her to former centre-right French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, saying the Frenchman bashed Turkey in his election campaign last year, but lost.

"Sarkozy tried to use it [Turkey] before, but it did not end too well for him," he noted.

"Those who mess about with Turkey do not have an auspicious end," he added.

Interview

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Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

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