Turkey prepared to join Europe in the fight against IS

[Patrick Denker/Flickr]

Turkey entered into accession talks with the EU in 2005, and as a candidate country it should be considered 'safe'. [Patrick Denker/Flickr]

The Turkish Minister for European Affairs raised the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU and reaffirmed the Turkish position on the fight against Islamic State militants during a meeting in the French Parliament. euractiv.fr reports

Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s Minister for European Affairs, painted a positive picture of his country on 28 October, highlighting its important role in managing the Syria crisis and the fight against Islamic State (IS).

Turkey was greatly criticised by the international coalition for playing an ambiguous role in the fight against IS jihadists, but officially joined the international military coalition at the beginning of October. Parliament authorised the mobilisation of Turkish forces in two of its neighbouring countries, as well as the deployment of foreign troops within its own borders.

It also decided to open the border and allow Kurdish Peshmerga forces to reach the town of Kobané to help the besieged population. Volkan Bozkir said “we are proud to have opened the border,” and added that there were currently 2 million Syrians in Turkey.

The minister even went one step further, saying that Turkey would be prepared to follow European countries if they decided to put troops on the ground to fight IS. “We need to use unconventional forces to fight unconventional armies,” he said.

He believes that Europe has a duty to develop broader support for the fight against IS, and that the British, French and even Turkish armies should offer to train to the Syrians and Iraqis.

Turkey appeals to France

The Minister reiterated his country’s interest in the European Union, at a time when opponents of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, are accusing him of authoritarianism. “Turkey wants to become a member of the European Union and benefit from the economic advantages enjoyed by certain other countries,” Volkan Bozkir said.

Accession negotiations were opened with Turkey several years ago, but of the 35 negotiation chapters, 13 are currently open and only 1 has been finalised. The other chapters have been blocked by France and Cyprus, whose Northern half has been under occupation by Turkish troops since 1974.

Turkey is currently awaiting approval from the member states, particularly France and Germany, who blocked five negotiation chapters, to continue with the talks. The Minister identified chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) as particularly difficult stages in the negotiation process that could be opened by France of Germany.

>> Read: Erdo?an launches democratic reform plan

Turkish compromise could smooth negotiations

Beyond the EU’s reservations over economic reforms and fundamental rights, particularly with regard to women and minorities, these negotiations will still have to contend with many stumbling blocks.  Ankara’s refusal to recognise the Republic of Cyprus is the major sticking point in Turkey’s accession negotiations, and Volkan Bozkir did not respond to questions over Cyprus during the meeting in Paris on 28 October.

The member states also see Turkey as an easy way in to the European Union. “We are doing everything we can to solve the problem [of illegal migration]. 10 years ago, we had 100,000 illegal migrants each year, and we have now reduced that number to 3,000, so the measures we have implemented have brought good results,” Volkan Bozkir said.

European Commission encourages reforms

The European Commission presented its latest progress report at the beginning of the month. Although the institution endorses the negotiations, it recommends that Turkey pay particular attention to the respect of fundamental rights, both in law and in practice.

Following allegations of corruption in December 2013, the European Commission is remaining vigilant over the independence of Turkey’s judiciary and the separation of powers, and will not tolerate the government’s attempts to suppress social media and influence the press.  

The timetable for Turkish accession to the European Union is all the more uncertain after Jean-Claude Juncker’s announcement that there would be no further enlargement in the next five years.

>> Read: Austrian Enlargement Commissioner: ‘Turkey is an important partner for us’

Relations between Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC) date back to 1959. Turkey became a candidate for EU membership at the European Council of Helsinki in December 1999.

The EU opened accession negotiations in October 2005, but numerous obstacles have slowed Turkey’s progress along the road to membership, most notably the country's relations with Cyprus, issues with minority and human rights, and the freedom of expression.

European Commission

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