The European Union’s ambassador to Turkey has quit after criticising the Turks for their handling of a deal to tackle the refugee crisis, and telling them they should be more like Germans.
Under the terms of the controversial pact, Turkey gets cash and visa-free travel to the EU in return for taking back migrants illegally crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. Turkey also wants discussions on it joining the EU to be restarted as the price for its help.
The European Commission has set 72 conditions that Turkey must meet to get visa-free travel. But negotiations have stalled over the EU’s demand that Turkey narrow its definition of terror in its anti-terror laws that have been used to justify the arrests of academics and journalists.
Hansjörg Haber, a veteran German diplomat, resigned after telling Turks they should be more like Germans if they want visa-free travel to Europe.
In May, Haber told Turkish reporters, “We have a saying ‘Start like a Turk and end like a German. But here it is the other way round.'”
The old German phrase means to start doing something with enthusiasm but finish it in an organised way.
The Turkish Hurriyet newspaper reported that EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini had pushed for Haber’s resignation after his gaffe, which lead to a breakdown in relations with Turkey.
Relations are particularly sensitive because the migrant deal was championed as one of few successes Brussels has had in dealing with a crisis that has seen deep divisions between EU countries and borders reinstated in the Schengen passport-free zone.
Volkan Bozkir, who was Turkey’s EU affairs minister at the time, said Haber, who was summoned for a dressing down in May, had broken “the first law of diplomacy”.
“No ambassador has the right to humiliate the people of the country in which he is working or to say something about its president,” he was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet daily.
A European Commission spokeswoman in Brussels today said the resignation would take effect on 1 August. “I can confirm the resignation. Currently all the necessary steps are being swiftly taken to appoint new head of delegation in Turkey,” she said.
Asked why he had resigned, she answered “I have told you all I can”, before adding, “The work with Turkey continues.”
Haber’s Ankara office confirmed he had quit but gave no reason why.
The Commission is due Wednesday to publish its second report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement, including elements on the progress regarding the fulfillment of the conditions for visa liberalisation.
- 15 July: Second report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement