Turkey tells EU ‘stop-start’ accession talks are unacceptable as Merkel divides bloc with election pledge

Mrs Merkel has vowed to end Turkey’s bid to join the EU by breaking off formal accession talks

epa06191790 Turkish national flag flying close to the European Union flag in Istanbul, Turkey, 08 September 2017. After the German elections television debate between Merkel and Social Democrat challenger Martin Schulz on 03 September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused them of 'bowing down to populism and prejudice' after both said they would seek an end to membership talks between the EU and Turkey.  EPA/ERDEM SAHIN
Powered by automated translation

Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik has said the EU’s policy of freezing and then re-starting accession talks is not something his government will accept.

Speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Tallinn, Estonia on Friday, Mr Celik criticised the EU for halting negotiations to join the bloc, saying the move would fuel “radicalism”.

“This approach of ‘I froze talks, now I restarted them’ is not acceptable for us,” he said.


Read more: Migration tensions seep into German election campaign


The Turkish minister’s comments come as German chancellor Angela Merkel and her election rival Martin Schulz both pledged to put an end to Turkey’s plans to join the political and economic union.

During a televised debate on Sunday, ahead of the federal elections later on this month, Mrs Merkel agreed with Mr Schulz that the current situation in the eastern European nation meant that it could not join the bloc.

“The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said.

Mrs Merkel, who is hoping to be elected for a fourth term, added: “I’ll speak to my [EU] colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks.”


Read more: Will Merkel's low-key, serious style win her a fourth term as chancellor of Germany?


Turkey began formal accession talks to join the EU in 2005, however, negotiations were halted in 2016 amid criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on political opponents and the issue of Cyprus.

Diplomatic relations between Ankara and Berlin have become increasingly strained in recent months over the arrest of 12 German citizens in Turkey on political charges.

epa06192161 German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during an election campaign event of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Wolgast, eastern Germany, 08 September 2017. Others are not identified. General elections in Germany are scheduled for 24 September 2017.  EPA/CARSTEN KOALL
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to end Turkey's talks to join the EU ahead of the country's elections in September. Carsten Koall/ EPA

However, the German Chancellor’s call to end Turkey’s EU bid has left Europe divided, France’s president Emmanuel Macron clarifying on Thursday that Ankara was still a “vital partner” of the bloc.

“Turkey has indeed strayed away from the European Union in recent months and worryingly overstepped the mark in ways that cannot be ignored,” Macron told Greece’s Kathimerini.

“But I want to avoid a split because it’s a vital partner in many crises we all face, notably the immigration challenge and the terrorist threat. And I deal with these matters by keeping very regular contact with President Erdogan.”

Mrs Merkel’s plans to end Turkey’s accession talks were supported by Germany’s neighbour, Austria, who have long opposed the negotiations.

"It's been known for a long time that I'm in favour of breaking off the talks with Turkey," Austria's foreign minister, Sebastien Kurz, said on Thursday.

However, fellow EU member states Finland and Lithuania disagreed with ending the negotiations, arguing the move would push Turkey even further away from EU values.