Turkish FM to attend EU gathering as union debates track of ties

Turkish FM to attend EU gathering as union debates track of ties

Turkish FM to attend EU gathering as union debates track of ties

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Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will attend a European Union meeting in Malta on April 28 amid increasing tension between the bloc and Ankara due to the former’s criticisms of the deterioration of rights in the problematic candidate country which have been fueled by a referendum that gave President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sweeping new powers.

Çavuşoğlu will participate in the informal gathering of foreign ministers and candidate countries upon the invitation of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative of the union for foreign affairs, and George Vella, the foreign minister of Malta, which currently holds the EU presidency, the Foreign Ministry said April 27. 

The informal meeting format, also known as the “Gymnich meetings,” gives an opportunity for an informal exchange of views on foreign policy developments, stated the Foreign Ministry. 

The EU foreign ministers gather in the morning on April 28 at which they will take stock of relations with Turkey. Çavuşoğlu will attend the afternoon session of the meeting in which candidate countries participate.  
The meeting comes after a critical Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) decision to reintroduce a monitoring process for Turkey while degrading the country’s democracy rating in a decision that could potentially jeopardize Turkey’s European Union bid. 

In 2004, the EU ruled that Ankara must exit the monitoring process in order to meet the Copenhagen criteria. In the same year, the EU gave a date for the negotiations to start after Turkey’s monitoring status was lifted.

Ankara’s relations with Europe deteriorated sharply during the campaign ahead of the April 16 referendum, with Erdoğan accusing Germany and the Netherlands of “Nazi practices” by banning pro-government political rallies in their countries.

Ankara’s stalled bid to join was thrown further into question by the new constitutional amendments, which the Venice Commission described as a “dangerous step backwards” for democracy, as well as the PACE decision to subject Turkey to monitoring again after 13 years.

Austria has long been pushing for an outright halt to the accession talks, amid concern in Germany and other countries that an abrupt break could jeopardize a deal with Turkey that has helped curtail migrant flows.

Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, urged European leaders on April 25 to rethink the EU’s relations with Ankara.  He said he would seek a mandate from foreign ministers to explore new arrangements to replace the accession process with Ankara, which could be suspended with the approval of a qualified majority of member states.

“The current situation is not sustainable, neither for them nor for us. We should say OK, let’s clean the table of everything we had and look at what could be the future kind of cooperation. Elements from things which have already existed might be taken on board,” Hahn said.