Spotlight: Turkey attempts to mend ties with EU though little hope for progress in accession

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-14 19:36:04|Editor: pengying
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ANKARA, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- At a time when Turkey's relations with Europe are believed to be at the lowest level, Ankara stepped up to restore its dialogue with European Union with a visit by the Turkish president to France hoping that there is a new opportunity to reverse this trend. Turkey's membership talks started more than a decade ago and have hit the rocks in the past few years as Europe has been critical of Ankara's security crackdown after 2016's failed coup, which saw tens of thousands removed from their jobs, and numerous arrests. It's been more than 17 months since the coup attempt, and the Turkish parliament will approve extension the state of emergency for the sixth time on Jan. 17. "Opening a new negotiation chapter is absolutely impossible with Turkey under the ongoing state of emergency," an EU official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The European Commission's annual progress report on Turkey in April is expected to be the hardest ever given the critics on state of democracy, human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms. EU leaders and Turkish politicians have been in exchange of accusations mostly due to domestic political consumption. The gap between Turkey and EU further increased after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe reintroduced a monitoring process for the country last April. The block strongly asserts Ankara that it would not compromise on the Copenhagen Criteria, but still, they voice significance of "anchoring" Turkey to Europe. In a surprise move amid frosty ties with the European capitals , Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week paid his first foreign visit in 2018 to France for a meeting considered as a step for the policy of easing of strained relations with Europe. Subsequent to talks in Paris, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Germany and met his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel to put ties back on track. The expectation was positive developments in terms of updating the Customs Union with the EU, if not in membership talks. A new vision introduced by the President of France Emmanuel Macron to strengthen bilateral ties between Ankara and Paris is expected to have a positive impact on Turkey's overall integration into Europe, according to Unal Cevikoz, a retired ambassador from Turkish Foreign Ministry. But, Cevikoz is pessimistic about Turkey's stalled EU bid. "Currently, the opening of new chapters and the continuation of Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU does not seem to be on the short-term agenda. Respecting the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms seem to be the key to unlock that impasse," he said. "The dialogue between the two sides should perhaps be rethought ... not in the framework of membership but maybe of cooperation or partnership," Macron stated at a joint press conference with Erdogan. "Recent developments and choices do not allow any progress," the French president said noting that, but they believe that "future of Turkey and Turkish people should be in Europe." In this situation, this relationship could be re-considered in the context of cooperation, partnership, not in the integration process, the French leader stated. He noted that Jean-Claude Juncker, President of European Union Commission has been working on this issue. Macron's remarks envisage that the full membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU has lost its sense, Sedat Ergin, daily Hurriyet columnist said. Despite standing still in accession talks for the few years, membership was the sole perspective in defining ties between Turkey and the EU, he noted. "Losing this perspective is a major paradigm shift in Turkey-EU relations. It's a major break in terms of the ultimate goal of a country that had the 'full membership candidate' status," said Ergin noting that the EU has yet to define this new status. Recently, some other EU leaders have also expressed ideas for a new model of partnership between Ankara and Brussels other than full membership. An EU agreement with Britain on relations after Brexit could serve as a model for ties with other countries that want to be as close as possible to the bloc but are not yet ready to join, such as Ukraine and Turkey, Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on December. "Let's abandon the hypocrisy on Turkey's membership in the EU," Boyko Borisov, President of Bulgaria, EU term president, said recently."Let's sign a special treaty between Turkey and the EU." In his press conference with the French president, Erdogan expressed the Turkish government's view on how Ankara was fed up with the prolonging accession process. However, he abstained to comment on the idea of an alternative model of partnership. Although some EU states such as Germany, has long been voicing "privileged partnership" with Turkey, the negative connotations of giving up full membership target make that a difficult choice to accept officially by Ankara. Maintaining Turkey's European anchor could help the country realize much-desired comprehensive economic and democratic reforms according to the view of remarkable number of Turkish citizens. Despite all negative developments between Turkey and the EU in 2017, a large majority of the Turkish population continues to support the country's membership of the block, though few believe it can be realized in the short term, according to a poll carried out by the Economic Development Foundation (IKV). The survey showed a rising trend in support for EU membership among Turkish citizens, 78.9 percent of who said they favored Turkey's membership of the EU. This figure was up from 75.5 percent in 2016 and 61.8 percent in 2015.
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