EU-Turkey to hold key meeting after 1.5 years

EU-Turkey to hold key meeting after 1.5 years

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
EU-Turkey to hold key meeting after 1.5 years

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini

Turkey and the European Union will hold a High Level Political Dialogue meeting on Nov. 22 after 1.5 year of break as a sign of progress in dialogue efforts.

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission and Johannes Hahn, the European Union commissioner for enlargement, will attend the meeting in Ankara where they will be hosted by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakcı.

The meeting will focus on two subjects, according to the EU official.

“One on foreign policy issues, the cooperation of the EU and Turkey, Syria, the Middle East peace process, like Jerusalem, etc. Also, on the accession process [of Turkey to the EU] and related issues, the Customs Union, visa liberalization and so on,” said the EU official.

“It is very important that the meeting takes place because we want to keep channels of communication open and improve communication. The meeting will be also used as a forum to discuss pending issues. One issue we are going to raise on our side is we will be asking for an update on the reform efforts,” an EU official told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.

The Turkish government resumed the “Reform Action Group” meeting on Aug. 29, after a three-year break, in a sign Ankara is stepping up efforts to revive ties with the EU. Ankara plans to hold the second meeting of its kind on Dec. 11.

The EU official recalled that the Turkish government said after the reform group meeting that it would like to carry out reforms on the basis of the EU and Council of Europe standards and norms. The official stressed that the reforms Ankara pledged to meet in the Reform Action Group meeting are crucial to achieving progress in upgrading the Customs Union and visa liberalization processes.

"We will ask for the updates. Where are they? We think we were cautiously and positively welcoming the Reform Action Group outcome in August,” said the official, pointing particularly to the issue of the Judicial Reform Strategy the Justice Ministry pledged to announce soon with a new human rights action plan.

“Why is this impossible for us? Member states have been linking the progress on this issue with other things, for example, with giving the mandate for negotiations under the Customs Union. There is also a link to visa liberalization, because a number of the issues that the Reform Group discusses have to do with the benchmarks under visa liberalization,” the official said.

The EU will also discuss the issue of the detention of 13 people last week, including academics, the official said.

On the side of Ankara, the Turkish government will brief the EU for its preparations on reforms, emphasizing the work carried out by the Justice Ministry on the Judiciary Reform Strategy.

Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül announced on Nov. 20 that they would announce the judiciary reforms at the end of November and would declare a Judicial Reform Strategy soon.

A Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News that the Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry are cooperating on drawing up a declaration for the Judicial Reform Strategy in order to comply with the values of the Council of Europe, over issues such as quicker court rulings and judicial independence. The official noted that every month, a working group has been conducting meetings with the Council of Europe.

Turkey urges the EU to launch a visa liberalization process but Ankara should meet the remaining six benchmarks in order to launch the talks. There is already a program for many of these benchmarks, but the revision of the terror law is still sensitive on the government’s agenda, since the country will run for local elections in March. Ankara will likely step up to meet the necessary benchmarks after the local elections.

Meanwhile, Turkey is still waiting for Germany to lift its objection for launching negotiations on the Customs Union. The upcoming elections in the European Parliament will also delay these processes.