Tuesday

21st Nov 2017

Merkel pushes for Turkey EU membership talks

  • "Germany is ready to give support," to Turkish demands, Merkel (l) said after meeting Erdogan (r) (Photo: Turkish presidency)

German chancellor Angela Merkel gave her support on Sunday (18 October) to a new start in EU-Turkey membership talks.

"How can we organise the accession process more dynamically?" Merkel asked, after talks in Istanbul with Turkey's prime minister Ahmed Davutoglu and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan

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"Germany is ready this year to open chapter 17, and make preparations for (chapters) 23 and 24," she said, referring to the chapter of the community acquis on economic and monetary policy, and the two chapters on justice, security and fundamental rights.

"We can talk about the details," she added.

In a TV Interview on 7 October, Merkel said she was opposed to Turkey becoming a member of the EU. "Erdogan knows this," she said.

In Istanbul on Sunday, she said "Turkey's full membership is an open-ended issue."

Burden

Merkel was in Turkey to discuss the war in Syria, the fight against terrorism and the issue of refugees living in Turkey and coming to Europe.

"The chancellor said that Turkey must be helped when it comes to burden sharing, because Turkey has carried a large part of the burden," Erdogan said.

Restarting accession talks is one of the conditions Turkey presented last week to agree to a common action plan with the EU to tackle the migrant crisis.

The action plan includes measures to strengthen the control of Turkey's border with the EU and facilitate returns of unwanted migrants to Turkey, as well as aids to help Turkey handle the 2.5 million refugees living on its territory.

Turkey also demanded a liberalisation of the visa regime in 2016 for Turks coming to the EU, a €3 billion aid package and a participation of Turkish leaders in EU summits.

"There are four elements. Germany is ready to give support on these issues," Merkel said in Istanbul.

At an EU summit last Thursday (15 October), EU leaders endorsed the common action plan and said that "successful implementation [would] contribute to accelerating the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap". They said "progress will be assessed in spring 2016".

EU leaders did not commit to give the €3 billion requested by Turkey because they are unsure where the money would come from. While Angela Merkel said that "the EU Commission cannot do it alone with the EU budget", a top official told reporters that the money would have to come from member states.

The most symbolic issue is EU membership negotiations. Talks opened in 2006 but no new chapters have been opened since 2013.

In last year's report on Turkey's progress, the EU Commission observed "once again sharp contrasts" and said "further significant progress is needed on judiciary and fundamental rights" in particular.

In the conclusions of the EU summit last week, EU leaders said that "the accession process needs to be re-energised with a view to achieving progress in the negotiations".

A chapter this year

In June, the Commission recommended opening chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy. The decision has to be taken formally by member states.

Merkel said on Sunday that the chapter could be open before the end of the year.

Chapters 23 and 24 on justice and fundamental rights are more controversial and could prove more difficult to open.

The part concerning these chapters was one of the most critical in last year's Commission report.

"Priorities for Turkey will be to promote dialogue across the political spectrum and society more broadly, to reinvigorate its rule of law reform efforts and to pay particular attention to the respect of fundamental rights in law and in practice," the Commission said.

The publication of this year's report, which is due at this time of the year, has been delayed. The Commission says it is because the focus is now on migration and that the report will be published soon. But there are some concerns that the report is being watered down as part of negotiations to get Turkey's help.

Opening chapters 23 and 24 could be opposed by some member states. Cyprus has already indicated it considers them as a red line.

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