EU offers Ankara chance to discuss paramount chapter

Photo: EU offers Ankara chance to discuss paramount chapter / Turkey

Reluctant to open new chapters with Turkey, the EU Commission instead offered Ankara to hold a working group meeting on Chapter 23, which covers judiciary and fundamental rights, Hurriyet Daily News has learned, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The proposal, which was conveyed to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu on Feb. 11 during the Turkey-EU Political Dialogue meeting, is interpreted as an indication of hesitation from the EU to open new membership negotiation chapters due to the political developments in Turkey that Brussels often raises concerns about.

Such an attempt to launch a working group on Chapter 23 could be treated as support to the Turkish government, as that would lead to softening pressure the EU was imposing on Turkey over a series of recently passed laws, following the revelation of corruption leading to a massive graft probe, which has shaken the government.

Brussels has publicly urged the Turkish government several times to take every necessary measure to ensure the allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner.

Turkey wants to open Chapter 17, economic and monetary union, Chapter 24, justice, freedom and security, and Chapter 23 in 2014. Still, no work has been accomplished to allow Turkey to meet the opening benchmarks on these chapters, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

Turkey had pinned its hopes on French President François Hollande, whose country still holds a block on four negotiation chapters. Although Hollande said France was in favor of the continuation of technical talks, he did not mention opening Chapter 17 during his visit to Ankara in January, a Turkish official said. Chapter 17 has no opening benchmarks.

For the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, countries such as France and Germany are expected to convince Greek Cyprus to remove its blockade, yet Ankara has not received any signals in this direction. Therefore, establishing a working group on Chapter 23 is interpreted to signify the EU Commission's willingness to continue working with Turkey to move forward in meeting its opening benchmarks.

The same methodology has been used for Chapter 22, regional policy, whose opening was delayed due to some EU countries' objections because of the Turkish government's brutal crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations over the course of the Gezi Protests last June. The commission offered to hold a working group and include civic society, such as Taksim Solidarity Platform, as the third party, but Ankara rejected the idea at the time, the Daily News learned.

EU sent letter over the Internet bill

In the meantime, the Commission sent a letter to Ankara on Feb. 21, expressing worries on the new Internet law, at which the EU underlined concerns over the heavy authority of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to block websites.

The Commission has been conveying concerns through letters since the emergence of the major graft probe to urge the Turkish government to proceed with caution over contentious bills on the Internet and the judiciary.

Earlier, the EU had sent separate letters regarding the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) Law, as well as other letters urging the government to effectively deal with the corruption and graft claims and avoid actions that could undermine or reduce the capacity of the judiciary and police to thoroughly investigate allegations of wrongdoing, ensure accountability and act in an independent manner.

During the Turkey-EU Political Dialogue meeting, as Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement, expressed unease over the Turkish government's recent legislation; Minister Cavushoglu reminded the audience that Turkey is a sovereign state, a diplomat familiar with the meetings told the Daily News.

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