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Merkel doesn't expect progress on Turkish EU talks

November 30, 2016

Asked by a conservative MP curious as to what to tell constituents about German policy on Turkey joining the EU, Chancellor Angela Merkel said not to expect any new negotiation areas to be opened for the time being.

Merkel und Erdogan
Image: picture alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, on Wednesday rejected reports in the popular Bild daily paper claiming that Merkel had changed policy on Turkey and now opposed the opening of any more of the so-called "chapters" that must be completed before a country can join the EU. 

Merkel had not outlined a new policy position, as the paper implied, but rather clarified the current status of the process after a curious Christian Democrat MP asked what he should tell constituents about Turkey's EU membership bid, Seibert said. 

"Chancellor Merkel's position on the accession talks has not changed," Seibert told reporters in Berlin when asked about the article. "The EU and Turkey have been negotiating for years without determining the result in advance. Under the current circumstances, the opening of further negotiating chapters is not conceivable."

Turkish accession talks began in 2005 but have made slow progress. Neither Ankara nor the EU expect Turkey to be in a position to join the EU for many years.

In order to join the EU, a country must close 35 so-called "chapters" covering a range of political issues. Turkey has so far completed this process in just one area, the relatively uncontroversial science and research chapter. A further 15 chapters are open, in two areas the EU has deemed that no work needs to be done, while the remaining 17 chapters are frozen. 

Ire over coup

The European Parliament voted 479 to 37 for a non-binding motion last week urging the Commission and national governments to call a temporary halt to membership talks with Turkey due to Ankara's "disproportionate" reaction to July's failed coup.

European Parliament votes to freeze accession talks with Turkey - Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels

German officials have been especially critical of Erdogan's crackdown on dissidents and journalists after the coup attempt.

Authorities have detained or dismissed more than 125,000 people - including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists and Kurdish leaders - mainly over alleged backing for the coup attempt, but also sometimes on charges of supporting Kurdish groups Ankara classes as terrorists.

EU leaders are due to discuss Turkey again when they meet in Brussels at a summit on December 15-16.

Ankara says it has other options

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his country had not yet "closed the book" on the EU but said Ankara had "other options with other partners."

Turkey still hopes to win visa-free travel for its citizens to the EU as part of an EU deal, in return for help in keeping migrants away from Europe.

Erdogan has threatened to scrap a deal to keep hundreds of thousands of migrants inside Turkey's borders in return for the promise of accelerated EU membership talks, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe and financial aid.

jbh/msh (Reuters)