Turkey today (9 January) urged the European Union to revive stalled negotiations on Ankara joining the bloc, saying without it Europe was “incomplete”.
Speaking at the opening of an ambassadors meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said he wanted more chapters in the accession talks to be opened “by lifting artificial obstacles to our EU membership”.
A “chapter” is a specific area of negotiation, ranging on issues from human rights to economic cooperation. Çavuşoğlu did not specify which chapters he meant.
He also said Turkey expects “visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens to be provided immediately”, a reference to EU commitments on visa-free travel for nearly 80 million Turkish citizens made in March under an EU-Ankara deal to curb migrants entering Europe.
Progress on visa-free travel has been held up by EU demands – rejected outright – that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amend Turkey’s draconian anti-terror laws to ensure they do not breach human rights.
The European Union stepped up criticism yesterday (8 November) of Turkey’s crackdown on opponents and alleged plotters behind a failed coup, drawing a sharp retort from Ankara, which accused Europe of failing to grasp the threats it faces.
Erdoğan threatened in December to cancel the migrant deal, which has dramatically reduced the numbers crossing into Europe via Greece.
Turkey would have to back out of its agreement with the European Union to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU does not deliver visa-free travel for Turks, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
The accession talks stalled after a failed coup in July by a rogue Turkish military faction was followed by a crackdown that saw mass arrests of not only officers but also journalists, activists, academics and others.
The breadth and depth of the purges carried out following the coup attempt in Turkey was exposed today (19 December), after the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly published facts and figures showing the extent of the crackdown.
“We’ve played an important role in Europe’s past and will do so in the future,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding: “A Europe without Turkey is incomplete.”
Relations between the EU and the NATO member state have soured in the past year over human rights and freedom of speech issues.
US-Turkey relations were also strained in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, with Ankara accusing the Pennsylvania- based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of being the mastermind behind the putsch.
But Çavuşoğlu said he thought relations would improve under incoming US President Donald Trump.
“We believe the US will not continue to make the same mistakes it has previously made,” he said.
He repeated a demand for the United States to extradite Gülen and his top followers to Turkey — request that has been made repeatedly since the thwarted 15 July coup.
He also called on the US to halt support for the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey sees as linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Washington considers the YPG as an ally in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria.
On a visit to Ankara, US Vice President Joe Biden sought yesterday (24 August) to ease tensions with Turkey which have been growing since the 15 July coup attempt.
“Turkey and the US have the potential to create positive effects in a wide geographical region,” Çavuşoğlu said.