Germany proposes delaying EU-Turkey talks as Merkel stresses Ankara Protocol
LUXEMBOURG / BERLIN
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers her speech on a congress of Germany's Christian Parties on the election program in Berlin, Germany, Monday, June 24, 2013. AP photoGermany has proposed postponing a new round of EU membership talks with Turkey by about four months to signal the bloc’s displeasure at its crackdown on anti-government protests as Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Ankara to make progress on the issue of the Ankara Protocol.
“We must make progress on the issue of the Ankara Protocol - that is actually the most enduring barrier,” Merkel said June 24 at the Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce in Berlin, adding that all other issues could be clarified “at some point.”
Turkey has never ratified the protocol, which requires it to have open trading relationships with all EU states, including Greek Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize. Turkey’s reluctance to implement the Ankara Protocol has led to the EU blocking some chapters, or policy areas, in the accession process.
Merkel said the German government would stick to the EU agreement on accession negotiations, adding: “But we also expect progress in the areas we have named.”
Official launch after annual report in October
Meanwhile, a German diplomat said the new proposal was for the EU to agree now to open the new chapter but to delay holding a meeting with Turkey to launch it until later this year. The official launch would be after the EU issues its annual report on Turkey’s progress in bringing its laws into line with EU practice and on human rights, due on Oct. 9.
The delay would be helpful to Chancellor Merkel because it would push back the talks until after the German elections in September. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Berlin had given the compromise proposal to Ireland, holder of the EU presidency, which was consulting other member states. “We cannot say today if this proposal will fly. We are doing our best to come to a good solution,” he told reporters at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg.
But some other EU governments objected to the German proposal. “Some member states assume the Turks wouldn’t like the idea,” one EU diplomat said.
Since a unanimous agreement is needed, it looked increasingly likely that the EU will have to call off June 26’s talks. “We’ll have to make some kind of decision tomorrow (June 25) either way,” another EU source said.
The issue may be discussed by EU ministers who meet in Luxembourg today to decide whether to set a date for starting membership talks with Serbia. Ireland’s Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said there was no agreement as yet to open the new chapter. “We’re taking soundings on that (German proposal) from interested parties and will reach conclusions some time before June 26,” he said.