European ministers say Turkey’s EU accession talks at a ‘standstill’

The European Union (EU) General Affairs Council stated after a meeting on Tuesday that “The Council notes that Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union. Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.”

At the same time, however, they praised Turkey for its “constructive cooperation” in addressing the migrant crisis.

“The council [of ministers] notes that Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union,” an EU affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg said in a statement. “Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen,” it said.

The council also underlined the “continued need to focus” on the rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey. “The council is especially concerned about the continuing and deeply worrying backsliding on the rule of law and on fundamental rights including the freedom of expression,” the ministers said.

“The deterioration of the independence and functioning of the judiciary cannot be condoned, nor can the ongoing restrictions, detentions, imprisonments and other measures targeting journalists, academics, members of political parties including parliamentarians, human rights defenders, social media users and others exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The ministers, however, did acknowledge that Turkey remains a “key partner” for the EU on issues such as helping halt the migrant influx into Europe.

The council “remains committed to maintaining an open and frank dialogue, to addressing common challenges and to cooperating in essential areas of joint interest such as migration, counterterrorism, energy, transport, the economy and trade,” the statement said.

“The continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, which reduces irregular and dangerous crossings [by migrants] and saves lives in the Aegean Sea, is in the interest of both sides and remains crucial,” it added.

Turkey hosts nearly 3,6 million Syrian refugees, according to a refugee association’s data.

In March 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aimed at stemming the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers. The deal also aimed to improve conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The statement said Turkey’s “constructive cooperation” on the migration crisis has “delivered clear results.”

“The council reiterates that continued implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and continued support for partners along the Western Balkans route is required,” it added.

“The EU will continue its financial support and technical assistance to strengthen cooperation in this field, including through the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey,” according to the statement.

Meanwhile, Ankara on Wednesday slammed this anti-Turkey EU statement and claimed the bloc’s stance “hypocrite and inconsistent.” Responding to the council, Turkish Foreign Ministry said that “Claiming that our country is moving further away from the process despite EU’s position is only hypocrisy and inconsistency.”

The ministry also defended that the EU decision is biased and unfair. “Though our country’s candidate status is not harmed by the decision, we do not accept associating our membership process in ‘EU Enlargement’ matter with new conditions under a meaningless cause-effect relationship,” added the ministry statement.

“It is impossible to understand associating the update of Customs Union to the criteria, when it would not only benefit our country but also the EU. “We have seen once again that the EU does not treat Turkey fairly and honestly,” the statement concluded.

Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik in a series of tweets also criticized the EU decision and said that “Yesterday’s EU General Affairs Council Conclusions is of a historic nature as it displays how far the collective mind of the EU is confused.”

He said the conclusion “lacks vision and is far from the facts and full of contradictions, also clearly shows that the EU has been held captive by an anti-Turkish mentality”.

“The conclusions, which came out while Turkey has just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections, [when] a new era is about to start, and [the country is] on the verge of a huge reform process with the Presidential Administration System, demonstrates the extent of prejudices against Turkey,” he added.

“With this conclusions, EU declares that it will not honor its commitments of March 18 statement. We cannot accept a selective type of relationship in which EU considers Turkey a key partner in the fields such as migration, terror, transport and energy which the EU benefits from but at the same time it refrains from honoring its promises and commitments,” he said.

In March 2016, EU and Turkish leaders agreed to tackle irregular migration following the massive influx of migrants into the EU.

Çelik affirmed Turkey’s willingness to be part of the EU, noting that “an EU, where far-right is in power, and that is normalized and also moving further away from its own founding values will fall short of promising a future either for its members or its candidates.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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