TEHRAN (defapress) - Tensions with Turkey will be high on the agenda of the European Union summit this weekend, amid calls within the bloc to freeze relations.
News ID: 66532
Publish Date: 18October 2017 - 19:00
Turkish and European officials have been in a war of words,
with Ankara accusing members of the EU of supporting "terrorism" and
EU politicians alleging a deterioration of democratic and human rights in
Turkey, Al Jazeera reported.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that EU leaders
would not make a decision on whether to freeze Ankara's EU membership bid
during the upcoming summit in Brussels, which begins on October 18.
"We will certainly not take any decision, but I would
like to listen to the views of my colleagues on bilateral relations with
Turkey," she said in her weekly podcast on Saturday.
In September, in a televised debate before Germany's
parliamentary elections, Merkel said that Turkey "should not become a
member of the EU".
Merkel's ultimate aim is to convince other member states to
approve suspending membership talks with Turkey, said Can Baydarol, the deputy
chairman of the Ankara-based European Union and Global Research Association.
"However, after Emmanuel Macron's presidency in France,
Berlin and Paris have been in a power struggle within the EU. It is not
possible to achieve that consensus due to France's stance against such a move
towards Turkey," Baydarol told Al Jazeera.
"France and certain other countries believe Turkey has
a crucial role in the Middle East, given the currently ongoing multiple crises.
This is the reason why Merkel recently said that they will not make a decision
on suspension of talks in this summit."
Turkey and the EU have been cooperating on issues such as
the refugee crisis, security and Syria's war - a situation that appears to have
made some member states hesitant to cut ties.
As part of a 2015 deal, Ankara received EU funds in exchange
for the return of refugees to Turkey, but questions remain over the efficacy of
the agreement's implementation in light of the rising tensions.
Erdogan, accusing Brussels of not keeping its side of the
deal about visa-free travel for Turks, various times threatened to open his
country's border with the EU for refugees to pass freely.
The EU member states and Turkey also share intelligence and
are allies in the coalition fighting the Daesh (also known as ISIL or ISIS) of
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sharply
rebuffed the bloc in the recent months, stating publicly that his country
"does not need the EU" any more.
"They do not accept us. But have they put an end to the
[membership] process? No. They are wasting our time … If you're honest, make
your statement and we will finish the job. We don't need you," Erdogan
said in a public address this month.
The declining relations between Ankara and the EU took a
dive in March when the Netherlands, Austria, Germany and Denmark banned Turkish
ministers from addressing immigrants and expatriates in rallies within their
borders for a referendum that changed Turkey's parliamentary system to an
executive presidency a month later.
Dutch authorities actively intervened after a Turkish minister
tried to reach a consulate in the country to address Turks living there,
leading to a diplomatic crisis.
Erdogan compared the ban on ministers to "Nazi
practices" and called Dutch authorities "Nazi remnants".
The members of the European Parliament (EP), an EU
legislative body with limited influence over Turkey's membership talks, have at
various times called for the process to be suspended in non-binding votes.
The latest was in July, when the EP called on the European
Commission, the EU's executive body, and member states to "suspend the
accession negotiations with Turkey without delay if the constitutional reform
package is implemented unchanged".
The constitutional changes, passed in Turkey's April
referendum, give the president to be elected in 2019 new powers to appoint vice
presidents, ministers, high-level officials and senior judges. It allows the
president to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees and impose states of
Following the referendum, far-right parties in Germany, the
Netherlands and Belgium had called for people with Turkish origins living in
those countries to return to Turkey if they voted "Yes".
EU member states have been united in their condemnation of
the Turkish government's detentions and purges of tens of thousands of people
after a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Local and international rights groups have accused the
government of using the coup attempt as a pretext to silence opposition in the
The government has said that the purges and detentions aimed
to remove from state institutions and other parts of society the supporters of
Fethullah Gulen, a US-based, self-exiled religious leader on whom Ankara blames
the attempted coup.
The Turkish government accuses several EU member states of
actively supporting "terrorism".
Ankara has alleged that EU states are harboring Kurdish and
far-left fighters, as well as people linked to the failed coup.
"Germany is abetting terrorists," Erdogan said
earlier this year, adding that Berlin did not respond to thousands of documents
requesting extradition of suspects wanted by Ankara. The accusation was echoed
by other top Turkish officials.
The Turkish president has also targeted the governments of
Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and non-EU Switzerland for allowing rallies
in support of "terrorism" within their borders.
In one such rally in Switzerland in March, a banner showing
a gun pointed at Erdogan's head was caught on camera.
Since the post-coup attempt arrests started, EU member
states have discussed economic sanctions on Turkey, such as cutting EU aid.
Last month, Germany's Merkel threatened to restrict her
country's economic ties with NATO ally Turkey to pressure Ankara to release
eleven German citizens arrested after the coup attempt. They include
journalists Deniz Yucel and Mesale Tolu, and human rights activist Peter
"We will have to further cut back our joint economic
cooperation with Turkey and scrutinize projects," Merkel said.
Those threats, however, were never implemented.
Austria, another staunch opponent of Turkey's EU bid, has on
multiple occasions pushed to suspend talks, only to be rebuffed by other member
states. Regardless, the talks have been practically frozen for years, with no
Baydarol told Al Jazeera that the European Commission's
annual progress report on the membership talks with Turkey, to be released in
November, would be an important follow-up to this weekend's summit, as the
report is expected to sharply criticize Turkey.
"Taking these criticisms in the report and the
Commission's recommendation into consideration, the EU leaders might make a
concrete decision on Turkey's EU bid in the coming summits," he said.