Sunday

24th Jun 2018

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 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our 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

Europe could lose out in North Korean bonanza

South Korean businesses including Hyundai and Samsung are already scoping investment opportunities. Will North Korea become a 'new Vietnam' opportunity - or more like Myanmar, where slow Brussels policy-making meant EU exporters lost out.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us