Sunday

25th Feb 2018

EU to Turkey: Do you really want to join?

  • Hahn (c) on a visit to Turkey in April, prior to the failed coup on 15 July (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU has urged Turkey to clarify if it still wants to join the bloc, as relations between Ankara and Western allies deteriorate.

The EU’s enlargement commissioner, Johannes Hahn, spoke out in Austrian newspaper Die Presse on Wednesday (24 August), saying EU concern was "justified" that Turkey had violated rule of law in its purge after the failed putsch in July.

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  • Biden (l) apologised for having waited so long after the failed coup to visit Turkey (Photo: tccb.gov.tr)

"If you want to join [the EU] you have to fulfil the criteria. The rules are not negotiable," he said.

"Turkey should soon make clear, whether it can and wants to accept those conditions. This open question puts a strain on relations".

Hahn said he was in favour of continuing accession talks, but warned that if Turkey reinstated the death penalty then it would have “crossed the rubicon” and the EU “would need to respond”.

He also criticised Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan for claiming the EU had failed to pay the €3 billion in aid that it had promised under a migration deal and for threatening to let refugees resume mass-scale transit to Europe.

He said the EU had paid €200 million to aid agencies in Turkey and earmarked over €2 billion for future payments, but that the money was not a gift to Ankara.

“Maybe there was a presumption on the Turkish side that we just transfer money and don’t ask questions”, he said.

“Neighbours and partners should not threaten you”, the Austrian politician added.

Relations fray

Relations between Turkey and Austria hit a low after Vienna said EU talks should be stopped and after Austrian authorities allowed Kurds to hold a rally in support of the separatist PKK group.

Relations with Germany and the US have also frayed.

Problems with Germany began in June, before the coup, when the Bundestag recognised the Ottoman killing of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.

US ties have suffered amid Turkish accusations that Washington is sheltering Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic teacher who lives in America and whom Erdogan has accused of organising the putsch.

German newspaper Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that Germany is thinking of moving six warplanes from Turkey’s Incirlik base to Cyprus or Jordan.

The potential move, sources said, comes because Turkey refused to let German MPs visit the facility in protest at the Armenia vote.

"The German government must immediately find other bases," Rainer Arnold, a spokesman for the SPD party in Germany’s ruling coalition, said.

The strain in US ties was on show on Wednesday when US vice-president Joe Biden visited Ankara.

Biden snubbed

Erdogan sent a lowly deputy mayor to meet him at the airport and later said the US must arrest Gulen to stop him from giving press interviews.

Biden called the coup plotters “terrorists” and urged Kurdish forces in Syria to move away from Turkey’s borders, but he said the US must follow due process on Gulen.

“The constitution and our laws require for someone to be extradited that a court of the United States has to conclude there’s probable cause to extradite," he said.

"Thus far ... there has been no evidence presented about the coup."

The rift between Western powers and their Nato ally in the Middle East has prompted speculation that Turkey might forge a new alliance with Russia.

Erodgan met Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier this month, while Russian propaganda has switched to highlighting irritants in EU-Turkey and US-Turkey relations.

Bulgaria attacks EU

The shifting ground in the region has also prompted some EU states to question allegiances.

Bulgarian prime minister Boiko Borisov said on Thursday that he needed a bilateral deal with Turkey because the EU had mishandled the migration crisis.

“I don't see a perspective on a solution to the migrant crisis in Europe. All I see is every country trying to save itself in panic and looking for a clause in their EU membership contract that would allow it to act separately," he told press.

“Our only option is to look for a partnership with Turkey”.

Bulgaria last year cancelled a gas project with Russia, the South Stream pipeline, to comply with EU energy laws.

But Borisov has also begun cultivating ties with Moscow and complained that EU membership has brought his country few benefits.

“By following thousands and thousands of restrictions, as administered by the EU, Bulgaria is spending thousands on a daily basis, on monitoring the borders, food and shelter, statute interviews for each and every registered migrant,” he said.

Turkey recalls ambassador from Austria

Ankara reproaches Vienna for allowing a PKK demonstration but not anti-coup rallies. But the Austrian police said there is no ban on Turkish demonstrations.

EU won't budge on Turkey visa demands

Turkey must meet five more benchmarks before the EU will lift any visa restrictions. The demands have received short shrift from Ankara amid its post-coup crackdown.

Turkey threatens to scrap refugee deal, again

Two Turkish ministers said that Ankara would end the agreement to reduce the number of migrants coming to Europe if it does not get visa-free travel to the EU.

Turkey pledges loyalty to EU and Nato

Turkey’s foreign minister has said that its rapprochement with Russia does not mean Ankara will turn away from Nato or the EU.

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

Rights watchdog to visit Turkey over rule of law

The Strasbourg-based human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, is heading to Ankara next week. The trip follows new plans by Ankara to meet EU demands for reforms in areas like anti-terror legislation.

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