EU fails to reach compromise on Turkish ascension

The European Union General Affairs Council failed Tuesday to reach a consensus on Turkey’s ascension process following a five-hour meeting. Austria stood against Turkey’s membership negotiations and voted against the final declaration that did not use the term “Freezing of Turkey’s accession process”. Members met to discuss the Council’s 2017 priorities.

Miroslav Lajcak, Slovak deputy prime minister and also foreign affairs minister said “the word freeze was mentioned by one delegation but did not get the support of the vast majority of the states present in the room”. The other 27 members on the council approved and announced that the group welcomed a deepening of EU-Turkey cooperation in key areas of joint interests and challenges, including migration, counterterrorism, energy, economy and trade. “Turkey’s accession process will not be discussed at the European Council because this is a general affairs council agenda,” Lajcak said at a press conference. The Council also announced that no chapters have been opened since Chapter 33, or the Financial and budgetary provisions, was opened June 30, and added that under these circumstances no new chapters are considered for opening regarding Turkey’s ascension.

Miroslav Lajcak

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. Negotiations, however, hit a stalemate in 2007 because of Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue and opposition to its full EU membership by the German and French governments. To gain membership, Turkey has to also successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards. Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The deal also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area that comprises most EU states. In a joint statement from November 2015, the EU and Turkey confirmed their commitments to re-energize the accession process.

A year later, however, the European Parliament (EP) approved a non-binding motion to freeze EU-membership talks with Turkey, in response to post-coup investigations and recent developments in the country including measures taken within the framework of the fight against the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) terrorist groups. Turkey has accused FETO of staging a putsch attempt in July that has resulted in a the arrests of thousands of FETO-linked state employees. EU countries' leaders also decided to evaluate relations with Turkey at an EU summit Dec. 15 and 16. At a European Council meeting Dec.15, leaders will address migration, security, economic and social development, youth and external relations.

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