EU offers Ankara small chance to discuss paramount chapter

EU offers Ankara small chance to discuss paramount chapter

ANTALYA – Hürriyet Daily News
EU offers Ankara small chance to discuss paramount chapter

PM Erdoğan (2nd L) poses for a photo with European Parliament President Schulz (L), European Union Council President van Rompuy (2nd R) and European Commission President Barroso in Brussels. REUTERS photo

Reluctant to open new chapters with Turkey, the EU Commission instead offered to hold a working group meeting with Ankara on Chapter 23, which covers the judiciary and fundamental rights, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. 

The proposal, which was conveyed to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Feb. 11 during the Turkey-EU Political Dialogue meeting, is interpreted as an indication of hesitation from the EU to open new membership negotiation chapters due to recent political developments in Turkey.

The EU has been repeatedly expressing concern over a series of recently passed laws by the Turkish government, following the revelation of corruption in graft probes that have shaken the government since December.

Brussels has publicly urged the government several times to take every necessary measure to ensure the allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference, and in a transparent and impartial manner.

Turkey wants to open Chapter 17, on economic and monetary union, Chapter 24, on justice, freedom and security, in 2014, as well as Chapter 23. However, no work has been accomplished to allow Turkey to meet the opening benchmarks on these chapters, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

Turkey had pinned its hopes on French President François Hollande, whose country still holds a block on four negotiation chapters. Although Hollande said France was in favor of the continuation of technical talks, he did not mention opening Chapter 17 during his visit to Ankara in January, a Turkish official said. Chapter 17 has no opening benchmarks.

For the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, countries such as France and Germany are expected to persuade Greek Cyprus to remove its blockade, but Ankara has not received any signals in this direction. Therefore, establishing a working group on Chapter 23 is interpreted as signifying the EU Commission’s willingness to continue working with Turkey to move forward to help it meet its opening benchmarks.

The same methodology has been used for Chapter 22, on regional policy, whose opening was delayed due to a number of EU countries’ objections to the Turkish government’s brutal crackdown on the Gezi Park protests last summer. The Commission offered to hold a working group including civic society groups such as the Taksim Solidarity Platform, as third parties, but Ankara rejected the idea at the time, the Daily News learned.

EU sends letter over Internet bill

Meantime, the EU Commission sent a letter to Ankara on Feb. 21, expressing worries over the new Internet law, which gives considerable authority to the Turkish Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to block websites.

The Commission has also been conveying concerns through letters since the emergence of the major graft probe, attempting to urge the Turkish government to proceed with caution over contentious bills on the Internet and the judiciary.

Earlier, the EU had sent separate letters regarding the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) Law, as well as other letters urging the government to effectively deal with the corruption claims and avoid actions that could undermine or reduce the capacity of the judiciary and police to thoroughly investigate allegations of wrongdoing, ensure accountability and act in an independent manner.

During the recent Turkey-EU Political Dialogue meeting, Stefan Füle, the EU commissioner for enlargement, expressed unease over the Turkish government’s recent legislation. Turkish EU Minister Çavuşoğlu responded by stressing to the audience that Turkey was "a sovereign state," a diplomat familiar with the meetings told the Daily News.