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."

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East