Turkey says opening chapters vital for ties with EU ahead of key meeting in Brussels

Turkey says opening chapters vital for ties with EU ahead of key meeting in Brussels

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey says opening chapters vital for ties with EU ahead of key meeting in Brussels

Opening negotiation chapters is vital to revive ties between Turkey and the European Union, Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik has said just a day before a Turkey-EU political dialogue meeting is set to take place in Brussels following months-long tension between the two sides.

“The opening of new negotiation chapters is crucial for the revival of Turkey-EU relations,” Çelik told AB Haber website ahead of a political directors meeting to be held on July 25. 

“In particular, the 23rd chapter, “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights,” and the 24th chapter, “Justice, Freedom and Security,” which are critical in terms of the negotiation process, need to be opened as soon as possible,” he said. 

“These chapters are chapters that are unilaterally blocked by Greek Cypriots. Taking into account what happened in the latest negotiations for Cyprus, I think the EU should open these chapters by putting pressure on the Greek Cypriots,” Çelik said. 

Recalling that Greek Cypriots rejected a peace plan in 2004, the minister said, “The time has come for the EU to correct its mistake that it has made by accepting Greek Cypriots as a member,” he noted. 

Turkey will be represented by Çelik and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu at the political dialogue meeting, which EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn will also attend. 

“We will discuss with EU officials what we will do next,” Çelik said, stressing that it was crucial to overcome existing problems between the union and Turkey and to be more “empathic and more discreet” about moving the relations forward.

“By acting in this consciousness, we want to continue the dialogue processes with the EU at all levels and actively participate in these processes,” he said, noting that the most important problem in Turkey-EU relations in the recent period was the lack of dialogue and confidence.

Despite Ankara and Brussels’ decision to move toward a positive agenda since a meeting of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and EU officials on May 25, the momentum is under the risk of being distorted amid the arrest of human rights defenders in Turkey and an escalating row between Ankara and Berlin. 

“We want to ease the situation,” a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News ahead of the meeting in Brussels, stressing that keeping up with dialogue is crucial. 

No proposal for anti-terror law 

“We will discuss every topic on the agenda,” the official said, while adding that they were not optimistic about achieving a concrete outcome from the meeting due to recent tensions over arrests in the candidate country. 

Brussels has long been waiting for a proposal from Ankara over the revision of the anti-terror law, as the union was hopeful that Turkey will submit the text on today’s meeting.

But the Turkish side will not submit any proposals at the political dialogue meeting in Brussels, the official said. 

Turkey and the EU sealed a deal in March 2016 with aims to stop migration through illegal channels in the Aegean Sea by cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
 
The agreement also called for a visa waiver for Turks visiting the EU. Brussels has long been waiting for Turkey to fulfil five remaining criteria to open visa dialogue with Ankara, including the revision of anti-terror law by the Turkish government. The government readied a draft work for the remaining criteria but has been waiting for months.