Europe

EU reiterates commitment to Turkey deal

European Council signals willingness to participate in upcoming Geneva Conference on Cyprus

Didar Yüsra Dilruba Öz   | 16.12.2016
EU reiterates commitment to Turkey deal File Photo

Istanbul

By Hasan Esen

BRUSSELS

The European Council reaffirmed its “commitment to the EU-Turkey statement”, following a meeting here Thursday.

The groups said it underscored “the importance of a full and non-discriminatory implementation of all aspects”, in a statement that mainly focused on migration and the Cyprus issue.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said late Thursday that Turkey would use a backup plan if the EU did not fulfill its commitments to provide aid for refugees in his country.

"We do not have to obey every decision the EU makes about us because Turkey has gained nothing from the EU," Erdogan said.

The Council said it was committed to supporting the current ongoing process to reunify Cyprus. Discussions between Turkish and Greek Cyprus resumed in May 2015 and both sides are optimistic a solution could be reached in early 2017.

“The EU, taking into account that Cyprus is and will remain a member of our Union after the Settlement, stands ready to participate at the Geneva Conference on Cyprus on 12 January 2017,” it said.

Speaking to reporters after the summit in Brussels late Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey shouldered an "unbelievable" responsibility by hosting some 3 million refugees.

"Turkey is ready to do more," Merkel added.

When asked about Turkey's current position on EU membership talks, Merkel said there will be dialogue but no chapter opening on the horizon.

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

Negotiations, however, hit a stalemate in 2007 because of Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue and opposition to its full EU membership by the German and French governments.

To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area that comprises most EU states. 

In a joint statement from November 2015, the EU and Turkey confirmed their commitments to re-energize the accession process.

A year later, however, the European Parliament approved a non-binding motion to freeze EU-membership talks with Turkey, in response to post-coup investigations and recent developments in the country including measures taken within the framework of the fight against the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) terrorist groups.

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