Brussels – Turkish officials expressed frustration at the lack of progress made on their country joining the European Union on Tuesday, as the EU-Turkey Association Council met in Brussels – for the 49th time since the two sides first sought closer relations.
‘It shows deep-rooted relations, but it also clearly shows that Turkey is still kept waiting,’ Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, said. ‘The relations are not at a point desired by Turkey or the European Union.’
Countries that apply for EU membership have to bring their laws in line with EU rules in 35 areas, known as chapters. Since Turkey began accession discussions in 2005, it has opened talks on 13 chapters, adding at least one to the list every six months.
But almost 10 months have now passed since the opening of the last chapter, after the foreseen start of talks on competition was postponed because of what the EU said was insufficient progress from Turkey in the area.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said Tuesday that he hopes the competition chapter can be opened by the end of June.
The near-halt of the accession negotiations, however, has also been due to Turkey’s involvement in the Cyprus dispute and Franco-German opposition to its application.
‘There is no technical problem, there’s a political problem,’ Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu argued on Tuesday. ‘No matter what the barriers before us may be, Turkey is determined to work towards full membership in the European Union.’
EU officials, meanwhile, welcomed the passage last year of 26 constitutional amendments that were designed to strengthen democracy and individuals’ rights in Turkey, and were expected to result in far-reaching changes to the country’s powerful judiciary.
Both Fule and Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – called it ‘a step in the right direction.’
They also stressed, however, that ‘substantial’ progress is still needed in areas such the freedoms of expression, religion and the media, as well as normalization of ties with Cyprus.
Fule additionally called on Turkey to allow a ‘rich, fair and open’ political campaign ahead of elections in June.
He said the two sides also had a ‘frank’ dialogue over the issue of easing visa restrictions for Turkey – a move fervently desired by the country, but that EU diplomats have described as unlikely, with France and Germany reportedly leading opposition to the measure.
Davoglu argued that EU visa regulations for Turkey are ‘not fair.’
‘The time when Turkish people feel least European is when they wait in line for a visa,’ Bagis added. ‘We would like this unjust and illogical implementation to come to an end.’
via Turkey bemoans lack of progress on EU accession talks – Monsters and Critics.