Turkey - EU relations
Turkey’s EU minister lashes out at EU foreign policy chief
Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs said on Monday the bloc did not have a plan to fight what he called terrorism and defended his country’s right to send its troops into neighbouring Syria to fight groups that he said were threatening Turkish security.
Turkish troops and their Syrian Islamist allies captured the centre of the Syrian town of Afrin on Sunday after a two-month offensive, dubbed Operation Olive Branch, to eject Syrian Kurdish forces from the northwestern district.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday called on Turkey to ensure that fighting eases in Syria.
"I am worried about this," she told reporters in Brussels. International efforts in Syria are supposed to be "aiming at de-escalating the military activities and not escalating them," she said.
Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik said the union had got it all wrong. “The European Union has taken a wrong stance regarding Turkey’s fight against terrorism in Afrin since the very beginning. The EU takes a critical rather than a supportive approach,” he said in a thread of Twitter messages.
“EU says don’t add conflict to conflicts, military activity shouldn’t be increased. Op.OliveBranch is not carried out to add conflict to conflicts but to end the atrocities of terrorism. Those who have no concrete recommendation to fight terror are criticising fight against terror,” he said.
“If Turkey were not to carry out an effective fight against terrorism with Operation Olive Branch, would the EU have a plan to fight against terrorist organisations which want to permanently establish areas of authority near our borders? We see that there is no such plan.”
Turkey says the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), which controlled Afrin, and are still in control of much of northeastern Syria, as terrorist organisations and part and parcel of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years.
The EU and the United State recognise the PKK as a terrorist organisation, but not the PYD and YPG. The Syrian Kurdish groups deny any direct link to the PKK, but all three share a common ideology and the same symbolic leader, Abdullah Öcalan, jailed in Turkey since 1999.
“Those who do not consider PKK to be a terrorist organisation because it has changed its name in Syria, think that the fight against terrorism is simply a fight against nameplates,” Çelik said. Source
Turkish PM blasts EU parliament motion on Afrin op
17 March 2018
The Turkish premier’s remarks came at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) 6th provincial congress in the Küçükcekmece district of Istanbul.
“It is understood that the European Parliament is in a state of eclipse of reason. They can’t explain why they are uncomfortable with Turkey’s fight against terrorism, neither to us nor to the world,” Yıldırım said.
On March 15, the European Parliament drafted a joint motion calling on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Syria's Afrin region. Source
Spending on Turkey has failed to address key democratic, media problems: EU watchdog
14 March 2018
EU financial assistance planned for Turkey from 2007 until 2020 through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance amounts to over 9 billion euros ($11 billion), the European Court of Auditors said in a March 13 statement.
It focused on the priority sectors of the rule of law, governance and human resources (education, employment and social policies), to which 3.8 billion euros ($4.7 billion) had been allocated.
But the watchdog slammed the European Commission for failing to attach conditions to the funds.
“EU financial assistance for Turkey had only limited effect,” the report stated. “The funds spent have barely addressed a number of fundamental needs.”
The watchdog said the results of the spending “may not be sustainable because of difficulties in spending the funds and backsliding on reforms.”
Turkish ambitions to join the EU date back over half a century but accession talks started in October 2005, after which Brussels started channeling so-called pre-accession funds to Ankara.
Brussels has allocated 4.5 billion euros ($55.7 billion) for Ankara to prepare the country for membership in its current multi-year budget for 2014-2020. From 2007-2013 it allocated 4.6 billion euros ($56.9 billion).
The court report author Bettina Jakobsen said that while the overall program was “well designed,” funding had been particularly ineffective when it came to the independence of the judicial system, fighting corruption and media freedom.
These are “areas where critical reforms in Turkey are overdue,” she said, adding that EU funding should target them in future.
Jakobsen said the European Commission “rarely used the possibility of taking over” their management from Turkey when the money did not achieve the right results.
“From 2018 onwards, the Commission should better target funding for Turkey in areas where reforms are overdue and necessary for credible progress towards EU accession,” she said.
At the Turkish end, the ECA blamed delays on a lack of the right staff in key ministries and excessive turnover at the contracts unit which manages most EU funds.
She complained about “a lack of political will” by Turkish authorities.
The ECA report will be sent to the European Parliament’s budget control committee.
Ties between Turkey and the EU ties have been strained of late, with Brussels criticizing Turkey over rights and media freedom in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt. More than 140,000 people have been suspended or sacked in Turkey over alleged links to coup plotters.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out last year Turkey’s EU membership “for the foreseeable future.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the measures are necessary to counter the multiple security threats Turkey faces, while calling on the EU to open chapters of negotiations in the accession process.
The country’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik said in January that Turkey would reject any offer of “partnership” with the European Union that falls short of membership, warning that the current impasse gave Turkey no reason to maintain its migrant deal with the bloc. Source
No EU visa-free travel for Turkey until terror laws relaxed - Belgium
Belgium’s foreign minister has said that Turkey will not be given a visa-free deal by the European Union until it reforms its terror legislation, British conservative newspaper the Daily Express said .
"If it is possible to align the legislation with the values of the European Union, it will be possible to make some progress,” it quoted Didier Reynders as saying.
"The link is this - a real evolution in Turkey in the legislation on terrorism and the possibility to move on the visas."
Earlier this month, Turkey sent documents it said proved that it had met the criteria for visa-free travel in the Schengen zone to Brussels. However, the criteria includes human rights criteria that EU members may not agree that Turkey has met.
"Turkey understands that in principle Europe is the most reliable and predictable neighbour they have, and they are well advised to have a good relationship,” Johannes Hahn, the EU's top enlargement official, said.
"There are some signals but when it comes to issues of rule of law, the situation is still not satisfactory." Source