EU Minister Çelik set for talks, Merkel wants end to accession bid
Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik will hold talks with the foreign ministers of EU countries at an informal meeting this week, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement that she plans to ask for the suspension or ending of Ankara’s bid to join the EU at the European Council in October.
The EU’s term president, Estonia, will host a Gymnich meeting on Sept. 7 and 8 in Talinn, at which EU foreign ministers will discuss a wide range of issues in an informal environment.
Turkey was scheduled to be represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu but he will be replaced by Çelik, as Çavuşoğlu will be traveling to Bangladesh to visit the camps where Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar are sheltered.
At the Gymnich, Çelik is expected to echo Turkey’s condemnation of Merkel’s call to suspend talks, saying she should not “use Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as election campaign material.”
During his visit to Talinn he will also hold bilateral talks with EU officials as well as foreign ministers.
The Talinn talks come after Merkel’s warning on Sept. 5 that Ankara is “drifting away from the rule of law fast” and her vow to push her EU partners to consider suspending or ending its accession talks at an October meeting.
Less than three weeks before an election, she vented her frustration with Turkey and spelled out her intentions clearly to the lower house of parliament after on Sept. 3 sharpening her rhetoric and saying Turkey should not become an EU member.
Those comments, made in a televised debate with her Social Democrat (SPD) election rival Martin Shulz, drew charges of “populism” from Ankara.
Merkel to push EU for a decisive stance
“Turkey is moving away from the path of the rule of law at a very fast speed,” Merkel said, adding that her government would do everything it could to secure the release of Germans detained in Turkey, who Berlin says are innocent.
Merkel said developments called for a rethink of Germany’s and the EU’s relations with Turkey. “We will also - and I will suggest this takes place at the EU meeting in October - discuss future relations with Turkey, including the question of suspending or ending talks on accession,” she said.
“I will push for a decisive stance ... But we need to coordinate and work with our partners,” she said, adding that it would damage the EU if Erdoğan saw member states embroiled in an argument. “That would dramatically weaken Europe’s position.”
Mogherini: Dialogue continues
A day before Merkel’s announcement that she will push EU leaders for either suspending or ending talks with Turkey, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said Turkey’s EU membership accession talks continue, underlining Ankara’s role as a partner in the region.
“We are continuing to talk with Turkey,” Mogherini said on Sept. 4 in the northwestern Slovenian town of Bled, where she was attending the 2017 Bled Strategic Forum. She also stressed that Turkey remains a “partner in the region in many different areas” and remains an EU candidate country.
“We will continue talks, it will be up to the internal discussions we will have, and most of all to the discussions we will have with [Ankara], to define the future of our relations,” Mogherini said.
Speaking to reporters, Mogherini said important EU contacts from Ankara, including Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, were also attending the forum.
She also described the latest Turkey-EU High-Level Political Dialogue in late July in Brussels as “good talks.” “We are not always agreeing on everything. There are some issues … that take our positions very much apart, but talks continue,” she added.