Problems in democratization, media freedom hinder Turkey’s EU talks: IKV chief

Problems in democratization, media freedom hinder Turkey’s EU talks: IKV chief

Öykü Altuntaş – Doğan News Agency
Problems in democratization, media freedom hinder Turkey’s EU talks: IKV chief

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) speaks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) before their meeting on October 18, 2015, in Istanbul. AFP photo

Among the most significant obstacles to rekindling talks on Turkey’s EU membership are restrictions on democratization, media freedom, freedom of expression, and human rights, Economic Development Foundation (IKV) Secretary General Çiğdem Nas has said, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s high-profile recent visit to Turkey.

Merkel’s remarks on cooperation with Turkey in solving refugee crisis and accelerating EU talks were the headlines of the visit, but Nas expressed skepticism about progress being made without relying on the pillars of democracy and human rights.

“It is not a hopeful picture unless Turkey ‘wins the EU’s favor’ in terms of democracy and human rights,” she said.

Nas expressed doubts that Turkish demands for more support on the issue of migrants would be met in the short term, questioning how the 3 billion-euro aid would be given by Brussels.

“It is unclear whether or not this amount will be met from a different fund. Perhaps … an additional fund could be discussed because the EU’s funds allocated to countries such as Turkey are already obvious,” she said.

Nas also touched on Merkel’s expressed will to open six negotiation chapters, saying the easiest one to be opened related to “economic and fiscal policy.” She added that Turkey favored the opening of such “softer” chapters on unionization, public aid and competition.

“It will be good for Turkey if the 23rd chapter [Judicial and Fundamental Rights] and 24th chapter [Justice, Freedom, Security] are opened because they are preliminaries for political criteria ahead of visa liberation,” Nas said, adding that she does not expect visa liberation without all 72 criterias being met.

“Perhaps Turkey’s sensibility on the visa issue has been exploited by the EU. But unless Turkey determinedly meets the necessities, the EU cannot meet expectations in the migration problem,” she said, suggesting that she could see no resolution of the refugee crisis “within the next two years.”

The IKV head also stressed the importance of resolving the Cyprus issue for Turkey’s EU accession process.

“There is an ongoing process in Cyprus. International efforts could be increased to stimulate it. We cannot say ‘if the Cyprus issue is resolved, Turkey will be an EU member,’ but it would ease the process,” Nas said.

She was also highly critical of German Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Turkey, describing her signals to open accession chapters without giving the green light to Turkey’s EU membership as “illegal wrestling.”

“It is unfair to relate the EU talks to the refugee crisis. It is already an ongoing process. It is wrong to use the refugee problem as a bargain tool,” Nas said.

As for the Turkish side, Nas urged Ankara to solve issues in democratization, human rights, and finding a political resolution to the issue of terrorism, which are all “bleeding wounds.”

“If political criteria are met then we could face the EU and thus prove that all kinds of restrictions are political and malevolent ... [The process] might then move forward more easily than right now,” she said.