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Turkey announces fresh round of EU talks

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Turkey announces fresh round of EU talks

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Turkey has confirmed that a fresh chapter of negotiations on EU membership will open on June 30.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the press he will travel to Brussels for talks with EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

Chapter 33 focuses on budgetary and financial questions.

Turkish officials say they will also discuss the slow pace of the visa-free plan for Turkish nationals to enter the EU’s Schengen zone.

Mevlut Cavusoglu

On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Foreign Minister said:

“We are under huge pressure from our people, who are asking what we are doing somewhere where there is so much anti-Turk feeling.”

“They want us to take more action and eventually, if there is a blockage, to have a rethink.”

“We will go to Brussels for meetings with the European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans. We will discuss the blockage on the visa issue when we open the new chapter of negotiations.”

“The EU must also keep its promises. Under the current circumstances, Turkey cannot change its anti-terrorism legislation,” Cavusoglu said, referring to requests made by Brussels.

“Turkey could hold its own referendum”

Angered at the slow progress of the plan to waive visas for Turkish citizens entering the EU’s Schengen zone, the Turkish President hinted he may hold an EU referendum in his own country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says if the EU talks do not proceed according to plan, he may ask the Turkish people if they want to continue.

So far, Erdogan has always described EU membership as a “strategic goal” for Turkey.

What has the Turkish President said?

“We can ask the people what they think, in the same way the British are doing,” Erdogan is quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency in a speech on Wednesday evening.

“We will ask them: ‘Should we continue with our negotiations to join the EU or should we bring them to an end?’”

“If the people say continue, we will continue.”

Why is everything taking so long?

Erdogan accused the majority Christian EU of not being interested in Turkey because it is a “majority Muslim country.”

“Why are you dragging your feet?”, he asked.

Agreement stalled

There are difficulties with the March agreement between Ankara and Brussels aimed at solving the migration crisis.

The EU has still not finalised plans to give Turkey visa-free access to its Schengen zone.

“You don’t keep your promises,” Erdogan said, “this is your ugly side. When Erdogan reveals your ugly side, you get angry.”

The context

  • Most Turkish nationals were in favour of joining the EU ten years ago
  • Polls suggest only half are in favour now
  • Turkey asked to join the EU in 1987
  • Negotiations were opened in 2005
  • Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in March to tackle the migration crisis
  • Visa-free travel in the EU’s Schengen zone was part of the deal
  • This has not yet been finalised. The deadline is July 1.

    What the leaders say

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say Turkey joining the EU is “not at the top of the list” and discussions are being conducted with “an open mind”.

The European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker says there will be no further enlargement of the EU before 2020.

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