First Published: 2013-06-24

 

Germany dashes hopes of quick EU-Turkey accession talks

 

Berlin blocks plan to reopen Turkey-EU membership negotiations in Brussels after three-year break.

 

Middle East Online

By Claire Rosemberg – LUXEMBOURG

Westerwelle: We cannot act as if nothing had happened

Germany on Monday dashed hopes of reopening Turkey's EU accession bid this week by proposing talks be delayed for four months to underline disappointment over Ankara's tough crackdown on protests.

"We cannot act as if nothing had happened in the last days," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on joining talks in Luxembourg with counterparts from the 27-nation bloc.

Berlin, backed by the governments of Austria and the Netherlands, blocked a plan to reopen Turkey-EU membership negotiations in Brussels on Wednesday after a three-year break.

But facing opposition from a large majority of European Union nations, a diplomatic source said Westerwelle suggested officially agreeing this week to reopen EU membership talks with Ankara, while postponing the actual negotiations until October -- which would be after the German elections.

Austrian counterpart Michael Spindelegger backed the idea of giving Turkey "a certain amount of time in which we can have a look at human rights, freedom of speech."

"We are a community of values," he said. "You can't stick the knife in countries like Egypt but not criticise an EU candidate country."

The row over the issue dominated talks between the bloc's foreign ministers in Luxembourg, with a decision possibly expected Tuesday when European Affairs ministers meet.

Sudden German opposition last week to re-opening membership talks with Turkey triggered an immediate surge in tensions between Ankara and Berlin, with sharp words exchanged and each calling in the other's ambassador for explanations.

At stake was an EU plan to agree to open a new policy "chapter" -- or set of rules and regulations -- in Ankara's eight-year negotiation process to win membership of the bloc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that Germany still backs negotiations between the European Union and Turkey.

Merkel said in a speech to German and Turkish business leaders that Berlin remained committed to the membership process of Turkey's entry to the EU, as per the principle of "Pacta sunt servanda" ("agreements must be kept").

But Germany was also waiting for progress from the Turkish side, she told members of the Turkish-German Chamber of Trade and Industry.

Turkey began accession talks in 2005 but so far has agreed with the EU only one of 35 chapters needed to gain entry into the EU club.

The clashes in Turkey between police and protesters left four dead and tarnished the government's image. A delay in opening the new chapter would raise fresh doubts about whether the predominantly Muslim country of 76 million people will ever be admitted to the European club.

Westerwelle said he had had talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the weekend and that he hoped to use the Luxembourg talks "to find a common position with our European partners."

Reopening Turkey's long-stalled bid for membership by discussing Chapter 22 on regional policy requires unanimity between the 27 member states, and as is often the case the ministers went into the meeting poles apart.

Asked for comment, Sweden's Carl Bildt said he saw "no reason" to delay the accession talks until after the German polls.

"German elections are a good thing, but it cannot be an excuse for postponing everything else in Europe," he said.

Turkey's accession "is the slowest accession process in the history of the European Union, and there hasn't been a chapter opened for years."

"I think this is an extremely important time to engage with Turkey. We want to influence events in Turkey, we don't want to walk away from Turkey," he said.

Luxembourg's Jean Asselborn said it was vital for the EU to maintain relations with Turkey while clearly criticising the crackdown on the protests.

"We need to think less about the government than about the Turkish people," he said. "Millions of people in Turkey hope that the EU continues to put pressure" on the government and therefore talks should not be blocked.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on arrival at the talks that "engagement is a better option."

 

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again

Iran’s reformists sweep to power across major cities

Turkey's alleged coup ringleaders stand trial

Israel makes concessions to Palestinians 'at Trump's request'

Ivanka hales Saudi progress on women’s rights

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Tunisia police use tear gas on protesters

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity

Looming showdown between Egypt’s president, judges

Netanyahu says will discuss peace efforts with Trump

Bahrain sentences Shiite cleric to suspended jail term

Trump scandals no issue for Saudi says minister

Saudi women celebrate easing of guardianship system, call for more freedoms

Hamas sentences three to death for commander assassination

Rouhani faces fight with hardliners in US, Iran after election win

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to fight extremism in major speech

Trump tells Sisi he will soon visit Egypt

US, Saudi agree arms deals worth almost $110 billion

Iran's Rouhani wins re-election

Egypt marks MS804 crash with ceremony and no information

Trump lands in Riyadh on first foreign tour

IS bombing kills 35 in Iraq

US Pentagon plans to 'annihilate' IS

Dictator's nephew apologises to Tunisia for corruption

Trump heads to Saudi Arabia as domestic scandals mount

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

US and Saudi Arabia blacklist Hezbollah 'terrorist'

UN envoy slams deadly attack in Libya's south

Syria, allies condemn attack by US-led coalition

Iranians vote to choose their president

Festive mood as Iranians flock to polls

Turkey takes aim at opposition journalists in continuing crackdown

Syria talks enter final day as tensions simmer over coalition strike

Hassan Rouhani: moderate cleric open to the world

Sweden drops probe against Julian Assange

EU's Juncker, Tusk to meet Turkey's Erdogan Thursday in Brussels

Nearly 23,500 Yemen cholera cases in three weeks

Israel arrests 2 after deadly West Bank clash

Sudan's Bashir to skip Trump-Muslim summit for 'personal reasons'

Saudi looks to assert regional leadership against Iran

Syrian warring sides agree to new UN process on constitution

US-led warplanes hit Syria pro-regime forces