Ankara snubs EU decision to halt accession talks

Ankara snubs EU decision to halt accession talks

Ankara snubs EU decision to halt accession talks

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Turkish European Union Minister Ömer Çelik has harshly criticized the EU, declaring that it lacked self-confidence after the bloc unanimously decided not to open new chapters in Turkey’s accession talks.
“Not opening new chapters means let’s not talk anymore. This is a sign of a lack of self-confidence,” Çelik said Dec. 14 while speaking to the press on the sidelines of an event held by the Kebler Foundation in Berlin.  

A “chapter” is a specific area of negotiations in the membership talks covering a wide range of issues.

“Under the currently prevailing circumstances, no new chapters are considered for opening,” said a statement from the EU presidency, currently held by Slovakia, after the decision to freeze accession talks. 

Austria, however, refused to sign the statement because it wants to completely terminate Turkey’s long-stalled process in joining the 28-member bloc, including ongoing negotiations.

Several foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels argued against Austria’s calls for a tough stance against Ankara. 

The bloc has criticized Ankara’s sweeping dismissals and arrests after the July 15 failed coup attempt, but is wary of upsetting Turkey too much as it needs its cooperation on curbing immigration to the bloc and dealing with the conflict in Syria. 

Some further collaboration with Turkey is needed for the fight against terrorism, to exchange information on fighters and to manage the migration issue together,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. “About the accession process, it is true that it’s impossible now to go further with such a very difficult situation in Turkey ... we will say certainly that it is impossible to open new chapters for the accession process.” 

French EU Minister Harlem Desir agreed, adding that he wanted “a demanding, clear and firm dialogue on the principles and values which are those of Europe.”

This decision comes despite a promise by the EU in March to prepare to open new chapters at an “accelerated pace” as part of a landmark deal with Ankara to tackle the migrant crisis.

The EU opened one new chapter in June, but this brings the tally to only 16 out of the 35 required for Turkey to join the bloc. 

Arguing for a tougher line, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: “Accession talks with Turkey have to be put on hold ... Turkey has drifted away from Europe more and more, and over the past months, this development has increased in terms of drama and speed.” 

The Netherlands is also in the hawkish camp. But EU leaders are not likely to agree on a formal halt of the accession process.

Meanwhile, Çelik also has said condemnations on terrorism and messages of solidarity from leading politicians from Europe after the Dec. 10 suicide bomb attack, which killed 44 in Istanbul, were more positive compared to reactions to previous terror attacks. 

“Still, words are not enough. We should look at the practice,” he said, calling on Europe to take actions against the terror groups active in Turkey.