Germany keen to delay EU-Turkey talks until October

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Berlin has proposed postponing the restart of Turkey’s EU entry talks until after German elections in September.

Its foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, floated the idea at a meeting with his EU peers in Luxembourg on Monday (23 June).

Under the German proposal, EU countries would this week give “political assent” to resume the process.

But they would wait until the European Commission in October publishes a “progress report” on Turkey’s EU reform credentials before going ahead.

The talks were originally due to restart at an intergovernmental conference (IGC) on Wednesday – a big step following a three-year-long standstill in negotiations.

But Germany and the Netherlands last week raised objections due to Turkey’s recent crackdown on anti-government protests.

The October date falls after German elections in September.

Germany and Turkey over the weekend traded harsh words after Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of blocking the talks to curry favour with right-wing voters.

Some EU countries share Bagis’ point of view.

“As usual, domestic politics is playing a role in multilateral politics,” one EU diplomatic contact said.

But Germany says the postponement has nothing to do with its vote.

“I would deny that there is any link,” a German diplomat told this website on Monday.

“You can’t deny a certain influence of the events of the last two weeks [Turkey’s crackdown] on the German position. However this might still develop, the events will be reflected in the commission’s progress report. That’s why we think it might be an acceptable compromise to go this way,” he added.

Most EU countries want to go ahead with the accession talks more quickly.

But for its part, Austria on Monday joined the Dutch-German camp.

An EU diplomatic source said Vienna would like to see “a cooling off period” because it might “send the wrong political signal” if the EU went ahead right after the crackdown.

The German idea is likely to be discussed by EU ambassadors in Luxembourg on Monday evening.

Foreign ministers might also have a second go at reaching a deal in the margins of a “general affairs” meeting in the same venue on Tuesday.

But in terms of protocol, Turkey needs at least 24 hours’ notice if the IGC is to go ahead.

“I don’t hold out much hope for an agreement on Tuesday. But even if there is one, I don’t think Wednesday’s meeting can take place,” an EU official noted.

 

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