EU to postpone meeting with Turkey to prevent further damage to ties

EU to postpone meeting with Turkey to prevent further damage to ties

Emine Kart ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
EU to postpone meeting with Turkey to prevent further damage to ties

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) holds a meeting with European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle during a visit to Brussels March 1. AA photo

A scheduled meeting between senior officials from Turkey and the European Union is due to be postponed by the EU side due to concerns that such a gathering could further strain ties in the wake of concerted criticism from the bloc toward Ankara over the latter’s increased authoritarianism.

The relationship between Ankara and Brussels is becoming increasingly estranged, but the relationship would go from bad to worse if the meeting went ahead as planned, an EU diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

The meeting of the Turkey-EU Association Committee was originally scheduled to take place next week, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The committee prepares the agenda of annual Turkey-Association Council meeting.

“Under such an environment which has become tenser than earlier due to bans on Twitter and YouTube, we didn’t want to hold such a meeting. There would be too much bashing of Turkey around,” he said. “After the meeting, both sides would be unhappier than they were before,” he said.

“Those who didn’t want to hold the meeting consist of individuals who may be classified into two camps, with a meaningful nuance between each other: Some of them didn’t want it because they have been upset with Turkey. And the other side didn’t want it because, in addition to being upset with Turkey, they didn’t want to carry on speaking with Turkey either,” the EU diplomat also said.

Turkish diplomatic sources, meanwhile, speaking under condition of customary anonymity, said Turkey and the EU were currently close to an agreement in principle to hold the Turkey-EU Association Council meeting in June.

Regardless of whether there is any tension, the August 2014 presidential elections in Turkey could also make it more difficult to a meeting in June due to the intense political agenda. Furthermore, there is widely held speculation that the next parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015 could be held earlier, perhaps in conjunction with the presidential vote in August.

“That’s why I keep on saying that at a time like this, it is in everybody’s interest to work harder and to display their political will. The process is there but there is a need for political will and work,” the EU diplomat said. He particularly took pains not to use the word “disconnect” for the near future of Turkey-EU ties.

“Do not forget that the only elections are not in Turkey, but there will also be European Parliament elections, which means that Turkey’s counterparts will shortly become lame ducks,” the EU diplomat said, while calling for urgent action by the Turkish side.

Füle in consultations

EU officials in Brussels, meanwhile, refrained from giving an explicit answer to the Daily News when asked to comment on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s remarks in which he urged EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle to ask for Turkey’s view before making statements about the ongoing ban on Twitter and YouTube in Turkey.

Following a meeting with Füle in Brussels late April 1 on the sidelines of a foreign minister meeting of NATO, Davutoğlu told reporters that “he conveyed to Füle that having consultations with Turkey would be useful before making these kinds of statements.”

“The EU expects every candidate country to deliver on Copenhagen criteria by making sure new legislative proposals are compatible with European standards and in line with these criteria. The European Commission has repeatedly stated that it stands ready to assist Turkey in this respect and to further deepen is engagement with the EU,” Peter Stano, a spokesperson for Füle, said yesterday in response to a Daily News question.

Nonetheless, sources familiar with the issue told the Daily News that Füle spoke to his inner circle at a morning meeting on April 2 after he saw Davutoğlu’s reported remarks.

“I will hold consultations only with colleague EU commissioners or Ms. Ashton,” Füle reportedly said, referring to the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton. At the same meeting, Füle told his inner circle that this was what he told Davutoğlu during their meeting as well, the same sources said.