Turkey, Germany call for talks on new chapters

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, both stressed on Monday the need to open talks on the EU accession chapters related to rights and freedoms, as well as justice and security, saying that for Turkey to get over the turbulence of recent developments that have shaken Turkey's political stability, talks on new chapters will be of crucial importance, Today's Zaman reported.

Speaking during a joint press conference after a bilateral meeting with Steinmeier in Berlin, Davutoğlu noted that if the EU wants to be included in Turkey's judiciary reforms and desires that Turkey's judicial reforms continue in line with EU standards, Chapters 23 and 24, which cover issues related to the judiciary, fundamental rights, freedom and security, need to be opened. His remarks came amid EU officials' increasing concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Turkey in the wake of the government corruption scandal that became public on Dec. 17.

Steinmeier expressed Germany's support for Turkey's EU bid at the conference. He said it is important to keep the EU's door open to Turkey following the corruption scandal and that he's advocating for the opening of two new components of the membership talks. He stressed the need for the opening of the sections of Turkey's membership negotiations that address justice and human rights.

Though welcoming the opening of the talks on those two chapters, Ankara is pressing the EU for further progress in the accession process by also giving the green light for the opening of talks on additional chapters. Turkey hopes for the opening of as many chapters as possible because there are still 21 chapters that are as yet unopened.

Davutoğlu and Steinmeier's remarks came just ahead of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's two-day visit to Germany, beginning on Monday. The visit is part of a flurry of activity to keep up the momentum between Turkey and the EU that recently increased with the opening of Chapter 22 on regional policy and coordination of structural instruments and the newly signed agreements with the EU on visa liberalization and readmission. Meetings with EU officials and visits to EU countries have intensified considerably in recent weeks.

Davutoğlu also underlined that Turkey is confident that Germany's role will boost Turkey-EU relations. "We believe that Germany's encouragement on this issue [Turkey's accession process] will set off a big reaction in Europe," he said, underlining that Turkey expects to proceed to a new phase in relations with the EU.

Bilateral relations between Turkey and Germany, Turkey's bid to join the union and the recent political unrest in Turkey are likely to form the agenda of the meetings that Erdoğan is expected to hold with German officials that include Social Democratic Party (SPD) Chairman Sigmar Gabriel and Steinmeier as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. Erdoğan is likely to seek the support of German officials for Turkey's bid to become a full member of the EU.

However, although Turkey has been trying to refresh its relationship with the EU, it has recently deteriorated following the exposure of a corruption investigation and then was further damaged by a draft bill to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). EU officials quickly expressed their uneasiness with the government's handling of recent developments and issued a number of statements sharply criticizing the Turkish government. One of the harshest remarks came from the German foreign minister, who signaled in mid-January that Turkey's negotiation process is at risk. He warned Ankara to revise its stance on recent events or Turkey's membership negotiations with the EU may need to be suspended.

At the press conference, Davutoğlu alluded to Steinmeier's remarks, saying that the two can discuss their opinions on the internal developments of both countries openly and reciprocally.

While Erdoğan was preparing to leave for Berlin, Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) deputy Erika Steinbach said Erdoğan should apologize to Armenians for the events of 1915. According reports in Turkish media citing a report of the German daily Bild, Steinbach called on Erdoğan not to deny the genocide committed against Armenians and Assyrians by the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire.

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