Dutch FM Blok: Turkey needs to take steps to revive EU accession process

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said Turkey’s EU accession negotiations have come to a standstill and that it must address issues including the rule of law and human rights to make progress possible, during his visit to Ankara on Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference alongside his Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Blok also said Turkey faces economic challenges but offers an enormous possibility for growth.

Dutch Foreign Minister Blok said on Tuesday that his two-day visit to Turkey would show the mending of fences between Turkey and the Netherlands. “The aim of the visit is to mark that bilateral relations between the Netherlands and Turkey have been restored,” Blok told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency in a written statement ahead of his visit to İstanbul and Ankara.

“We will be talking about things that bind us together, important issues on which we work together,” Blok said and added that among the topics that would be discussed were “security, migration, and of course the economy.”

“My visit to Turkey is a clear sign that we want to have channels of communication wide open, in order to be able to address issues that are important to both of us,” he said.

“As in every relationship, there are always issues we do not see eye-to-eye on. The visit is also an excellent opportunity to raise these issues with each other, and address concerns we have in these areas,” he said.

Blok’s trip to Turkey came after the two countries decided in July to reinstate ambassadors who had been withdrawn earlier this year. Relations between the two countries plunged ahead of the April 2017 presidential referendum in Turkey, when Dutch authorities canceled the flight permit of a plane carrying Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu.

Rallies by Turks there in favor of constitutional changes to shift Turkey to an executive presidential system also faced restrictions from both central and local governments. In September, Turkey and the Netherlands reciprocally appointed ambassadors in a step to normalize relations.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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