Hahn, EU commissioner for enlargement, says Turkey’s EU dream is over

Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

Johannes Hahn, the European Union‘s (EU) commissioner for enlargement, declared that “Turkey’s EU dream is over, for now,” in an interview to Reuters. Turkey, which is under autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “has turned its back on joining the EU, at least for now,” said Hahn, offering economic cooperation instead if both sides can restore friendly ties.

“Everybody is clear that, currently at least, Turkey is moving away from a European perspective,” Hahn told Reuters. “The focus of our relationship has to be something else,” he said in an interview after EU foreign ministers met in Malta and where France and Germany led efforts to consider a new deal with Ankara based on trade and security ties.

“We have to see what could be done in the future, to see if we can restart some kind of cooperation,” Hahn said on Saturday, saying that he had not had meetings on the economy with NATO-member Turkey since January last year, normally a fixture of accession talks.

The EU process is not formally frozen, but EU lawmakers called last week for a formal halt to talks, with some saying Turkey no longer met the democratic criteria to be considered a candidate, let alone a full member, for the EU.

Erdoğan told Reuters in an interview last week that Turkey would not wait at Europe’s door forever and would walk away from accession talks if what he said was rising Islamophobia and hostility from some member states persist.

Launched in 2005 after decades of seeking the formal start of an EU membership bid, negotiations dovetailed with Erdoğan’s first economic reforms in power as prime minister from 2003. The European Union is Turkey’s biggest foreign investor and biggest trading partner.

Stating that he would present a report by early next year to EU governments to clarify Turkey’s status, Hahn said that limits on with press freedoms, mass jailing and shrinking civil rights made it almost impossible at the present time for Turkey to meet EU joining criteria. Hahn said EU rules “were not negotiable” and the bloc would not “decouple the human rights situation” from discussions.

“There is no version of Turkish democracy. There is only democracy. Turkish people have the same rights to live in freedom as Europeans do,” said Hahn, whose delegation in Turkey has visited dissidents in prison.

Asked if the European Union was partly responsible for Turkey’s turn towards a more centralized system, Hahn said the drive to change had come from inside the country. “Nobody can claim to be blameless, but it is always the sovereign decision of a country (to decide policy) … If you have a certain vision in mind, it is difficult to intervene in a meaningful way,” Hahn said.

“All these reform efforts are not done for the European Union but for the sake of (Turkish) citizens,” Hahn said, referring to the process that helped transform former communist countries in central and eastern Europe into thriving market democracies as they sought to join the European Union. “This is not about serving the Europeans,” he said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had said Europeans have understood that they made mistakes in their relations with Turkey. “If you [European Union] want to have dialogue and cooperation, it must be sincere dialogue and cooperation. I have seen this positive atmosphere. I have seen that they have understood their mistakes,” Çavuşoğlu had told state-run Anadolu news agency following the Informal Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers (Gymnich) in Valletta, Malta.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday called on the European Union to open membership chapters with Turkey, signaling that the bloc’s failure to do so will terminate the membership talks between the EU and Turkey.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan called on the EU to open membership chapters with Turkey, signaling that the bloc’s failure to do so will terminate the membership talks between the EU and Turkey. Speaking at a meeting of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) during which Erdoğan became an official member of the party again, he said: “There is something that you have not done so far and should do now: You have no option other than to open those chapters you have not opened until today. If you open them, that’s fine; if you don’t open them, goodbye.”

Relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained, especially due to steps taken by the government following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Tension peaked when some EU countries refused to allow Turkish ministers conduct referendum rallies in European cities.

Attacking EU members during his nonstop “yes” campaign ahead of an April 16 referendum, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Europe “the center of Nazism today.” Erdoğan also described the EU as “the alliance of crusaders.”

May 2, 2017


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