Erdogan in Rome: Let Turkey be full EU member

The arrival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with his delegation at the Hotel Excelsior, Rome, Italy, 4 February 2018. [Ricardo Antimiani/EPA/EFE]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rejected proposals of a partnership with the EU, insisting full membership of the bloc is the only option, in an interview published Sunday (4 February).

Hosting Erdoğan on a visit to Paris in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said it was “hypocrisy” to say progress could be made on Turkish EU membership, floating the idea of a partnership instead.

Macron urges respect of rule of law in talks with Erdogan

French President Emmanuel Macron told Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Friday (5 January) that democratic countries must respect the rule of law in their fight against terrorism as he voiced concerns about the fate of students, teachers and journalists detained by Ankara.

The EU must “keep its promises” to Turkey, Erdoğan told Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, ahead of his arrival in Rome on Sunday evening for a 24-hour visit.

“The EU is blocking access to negotiations and suggests that lack of progress is because of us. It’s unfair. Just like it is that other countries are pushing for options other than membership,” he said.

“We want full membership. Other options are not satisfactory,” he added.

Turkey and EU shadow-box over illusive accession process

Turkey’s accession process is neither formally suspended nor canceled but the European Commission is not working on opening new negotiation chapters, an EU official told EURACTIV.com following Ankara’s fresh all-or-nothing request for full membership.

He stressed the country’s “important” role stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, which he said offered “security and stability” to the continent.

Turkish ambitions to join the EU date back over half a century but accession talks started in October 2005.

Out of the total of 35 chapters needed to be closed to join the EU, 16 have been opened with just one closed. No new chapter has been opened since financial and budgetary provisions was opened in June 2016.

The Turkish leader also defended his recently-launched ‘Olive Branch’ operation in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, fighting Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which Ankara sees as a terror group.

“The Turkish armed forces are not in Afrin to fight armed Kurdish groups. We don’t have problems with the Kurdish Syrians, we are only fighting terrorists, and we have the right to do it,” insisted Erdoğan, repeating that Turkey was not seeking territorial gains.

Turkey tells EU to back their anti-Kurd campaign in Syria

Turkey’s European affairs ministers told the EU yesterday (25 January) to side with Ankara in its campaign against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

Erdoğan’s flying visit to Italy will include a meeting with his Italian counterpart Italian Sergio Mattarella.

He will also be the first Turkish president to visit the Vatican in 59 years, where he will thank Pope Francis for challenging US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a city also claimed by Palestinians.

“We are both in favour of the status quo and we have the will to protect it,” he said.

A EU-Turkey summit is likely to take place in the second half of March in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna.

Are there conditions for holding EU-Turkey summit?

The European Commission and the Council offered contradictory views on Friday (2 February) on whether conditions would be attached to holding an EU-Turkey summit in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna in March.

It will reportedly be held in the ‘Lisbon Treaty format’, meaning between the leaders of the three EU institutions (Council, Commission and Parliament), the rotating presidency and the EU foreign affairs chief representing the EU, and the Turkish President.