Thursday

20th Feb 2020

EU rejects calls for 'freeze' in Turkey talks

  • Turkey's path to EU membership won't be formally frozen despite the post-coup crackdown (Photo: Reuters)

The European Parliament and Austria's demands to suspend negotiations with Turkey in its bid to join the EU were roundly opposed by EU member states.

EU ministers on Tuesday (13 December) said Ankara's membership "accession process is open-ended" even though no new negotiating chapters will be launched in the foreseeable future.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Although talks have stalled since the last negotiation chapter was opened in June, the push for a formal freeze was meant to send a political signal against Turkey's widespread crackdown on so-called state saboteurs.

Slovakia's foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak, who chaired the meeting on behalf of his country's EU presidency, said that "one country was unable to accept a compromise, which all remaining 27 member states found acceptable."

Austria opposition

Austria refused to budge on its demand to insert the word "freeze" in the meeting's formal conclusions. The position of the other ministers was published in a statement released by the Slovak presidency.

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, in the lead up to Tuesday's meeting, had demanded to stop Turkey's membership process.

"In Turkey, dissenters are intimidated, journalists and opposition politicians are imprisoned. The death penalty is to be introduced. We as the European Union must react to this," he told Deutsche Welle news outlet earlier this week.

Turkey now ranks as the world's top jailer of journalists with some 81 behind bars. China trails in second with 38 imprisoned reporters.

The EU wants to maintain already strained diplomatic ties with Ankara over broader fears that the country may scrap a migrant swap deal that was signed off in March.

"The EU remains committed to maintaining an open dialogue and working together with a democratic, inclusive and stable Turkey," said the ministers in a press statement, while highlighting Turkey's backsliding on the judiciary and freedom of expression.

"It's business as usual," said one EU official of Turkey's membership path.

Broader issues of Turkey's membership bid won't be discussed at a EU leaders summit in Brussels on Thursday. The European Commission described the suspension talks "as an artificial debate" because of the stand-still in accession negotiations.

"I don't see any movement in the next couple of months," said EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn.

EU parliament sidelined

But Tuesday's decision is still a blow for the European Parliament. The assembly had in late November roundly supported a temporary freeze in talks.

German MEP Manfred Weber, who heads the parliament's largest political group, the centre-right EPP, reiterated the demand earlier on Tuesday in Strasbourg.

"The EPP believes the Council has to send out a strong signal to Turkey," he said. "We can no longer turn a blind eye to what is going on."

Turkey was granted candidate status in 1999 with accession negotiations opening a few years later. Out of the 16 chapters opened so far, only one was closed.

EU in damage control on festering Turkey relations

The EU commission wants to maintain relations with Turkey, despite an EU parliament vote to suspend accession talks amid renewed threats from Ankara to scrap a migrant swap deal.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us