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EU foreign ministers assess way ahead for Turkey relations

Published : Apr 28, 2017, 4:34 pm IST
Updated : Apr 28, 2017, 4:34 pm IST

They will meet their Turkish counterpart in Malta, for the first high-level meeting since the divisive referendum in Turkey.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)
 Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)

Brussels: European Union foreign ministers were seeking a way out of a stalemate on membership talks with Turkey on Friday, as ties between the two have sunk to their lowest level in years.

EU ministers also will meet with their Turkish counterpart in Valletta, Malta, for the first high-level meeting since the divisive referendum in Turkey that gives more powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his stinging criticism of several EU nations, some of which he compared to Nazis.

"The current situation as it is, is definitely not sustainable and this in a way frustrating for both sides," EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said.

While some ministers are calling for sustained relations with a pillar of the NATO alliance and a major partner in controlling the flow of migrants into the EU from Syria and beyond, others are calling for change.

"There are so many areas where we need a correct, friendly and productive cooperation that we have to see, together with our Turkish colleagues, how we can improve the situation," Hahn said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has been at the forefront in calling for a fundamental reset of relations, and claims Turkey has thwarted fundamental EU values.

"The path cannot be membership," he said. He insisted that Erdogan had crossed many "red lines" that would bar membership, including the imprisonment of journalists, undue pressure on the opposition, and the referendum which will bring more powers to the president.

"I would like to see a clear, courageous EU stand. 'Yes' to contact with Turkey. 'No' to accession," Kurz said.

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak questioned Turkey's credentials to join the EU, saying that EU "values must be underpinned by concrete steps and you must not be saying one thing and marching in a different direction."

In the wake of the referendum victory two weeks ago, Erdogan has been talking about the reinstatement of the death penalty, which is outlawed in all EU nations and is a key moral benchmark of the bloc.

Turkey applied to join the EU three decades ago, and they started negotiating in 2005. But of the 16 negotiating chapters on issues as varied as capital movement and food safety, only one has been provisionally closed: science and research. There has been no progress in recent months.

Even though the Netherlands was one of the nations that Erdogan compared to "Nazis," Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said he would still try to end the war of words. "Our bilateral relationships have been difficult, but my plan is to deescalate tension," he said.

Tags: eu foreign ministers, european union, recep tayyip erdogan
Location: Belgium, Bryssel, Bruxelles [Brussel]