Dutch join push for EU-Turkey accession talks freeze

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders [R] with his Spanish colleague Alfonso Dastis Quecedo. [Council]

The Dutch government has lent its weight to calls for the EU to freeze Turkey’s membership talks, diplomats said yesterday (1 December), raising the prospect of European leaders making such a move at a summit in two weeks.

A Dutch suggestion that the Union consider suspending the accession process for six months in protest at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown following July’s coup attempt was discussed at a weekly meeting of national envoys in Brussels. There will be further consultations before the 15 December summit.

December EU summit to last one day only, May not invited for dinner

The regular end-of-year summit of EU leaders will last only one day and will end with a dinner where Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is not invited, the indicative programme of the meeting showed yesterday (1 December).

Any such move, which would satisfy a call from the European Parliament last week, would be a political signal to Ankara but a largely symbolic one that would reflect the fact that accession talks have been de facto on hold for months already.

MEPs urge freezing Turkey membership talks

A vast majority of the political groups in the European Parliament yesterday (22 November) said the Commission should temporarily freeze the accession talks with Turkey because of its post-coup purges – while the Commission warned that cutting ties would be a lose-lose solution.

The EU executive, the European Commission, and most member states including Germany had hitherto rejected pressure to halt the membership talks, saying they preferred to keep dialogue open with Turkey, a key strategic partner, despite concern over rights abuses.

But diplomats said the intervention of the Netherlands, a founding member of the EU, added substantial weight to those favouring an official freeze, something already advocated by Austria.

Austrian chancellor wants EU to end accession talks with Turkey

Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern on Wednesday called on the European Union to end membership talks with Turkey in the wake of a massive government crackdown following a failed coup.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders had given parliament in The Hague a commitment during a session on Wednesday that he would look into building an EU consensus on sending Turkey a signal. He also agreed with Dutch lawmakers, however, that the EU should remain engaged in a dialogue with Turkey.

In over a decade, accession talks have made little progress and few leaders in the EU think Turkey, a Muslim country of 79 million people, would be able to join for many more years.

EU states including Germany, France and the Netherlands are even more cautious now as they face elections next year.

They fear pushing the Turkish talks forward could fuel support for radical and populist groups riding a wave of anti-migration sentiment and growing unease about Islam in the EU.

Turkey slams EU vote as 'most unjust in history'

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister, Ömer Çelik, on Tuesday (29 November) dismissed a European Parliament vote to freeze accession talks with Ankara as the “most unjust resolution in history” and urged solidarity instead.

The EU also depends on Turkey to control migration to Europe. Ankara, a NATO member playing a crucial role in the Middle East, has warned it could unleash a new wave of refugees and migrants on Europe.

Turkey to back out of EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel

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.

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