Juncker: Turkey is taking giant strides away from EU
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Sept. 13 that he saw no prospect of Turkey joining the EU “in the foreseeable future,” adding that Ankara is “taking giant strides” away from the bloc.
“Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time,” Juncker said in his annual keynote speech to the European Parliament on the state of the bloc.
“Accession candidates must give utmost priority to the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights. This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future,” he added.
Juncker referred to the ongoing war of words between Berlin and Ankara, in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for an end to Turkey’s membership talks, despite it being a crucial NATO ally.
“Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns,” Juncker said. “Stop insulting our member states by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis.”
Formally ending Turkey’s accession negotiations would require unanimity among EU states. EU leaders will discuss Turkey at a summit in Brussels in October, though any formal decision may not come before next spring.
Meanwhile, Juncker put a final stamp on the EU’s recently revived engagement in the Balkans, where Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo all want to join the EU one day.
“If we want more stability in our neighborhood then we must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans,” he said.
The region on the EU’s southeastern edge, still scarred by the wars fought along political, ethnic and religious lines in the 1990s, is important for the bloc for issues from controlling immigration to countering security threats.
Earlier this year, the EU accused Russia of seeking to destabilize the Western Balkans - which Moscow denied - and its concerns have led to a renewed engagement in the region.
With Britain now scheduled to exit the EU in 2019, Juncker said he foresaw no new enlargement of the bloc before 2020.
“But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number,” he added.
EU officials say Serbia, Albania and Macedonia could be closest to joining, possibly allowing for an EU of 30 states by around 2025, though they avoid setting any firm deadlines.
Juncker’s comments came in a speech in which he urged the EU to “catch the wind” in its sails after years of battling crises from the eurozone to migration to Brexit.