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Ankara Urges Brussels Not To Separate Turkey From Western Balkans In Accession Talks


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (file photo)

Turkey has urged the European Union to remove “the artificial division” between the Western Balkans and Turkey in the bloc’s enlargement policy and slammed Brussels’ treatment of Ankara in a letter seen by RFE/RL.

The letter, addressed by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to new EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, is dated 22 January and outlines the Turkish view of the bloc's enlargement policy ahead of the publication by the European Commission on February 5 of a new methodology for EU accession negotiations.

The commission's proposals concern EU hopefuls in the Western Balkans such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia.

Cavusoglu says in his letter said that the accession of the Western Balkan countries shouldn't be treated differently from that of Turkey.

“All countries should be treated on equal footing. We hope to see some positive steps taken in this direction to end the artificial division in the enlargement policy between 'Western Balkans' and Turkey during your tenure”, Cavusoglu wrote, adding, “aside from the fact that Turkey is a Balkan country by virtue of its history, culture and geography, every candidate country should be judged on their own merits and under equal circumstances.”

Turkey applied to join the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1987 and started EU accession talks in 2005. In recent years, those negotiations have come to a standstill with the bloc critical of Turkey’s human rights and rule-of-law record.

The bloc has criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s extended crackdown on civil society at home and increasingly assertive policies abroad.

Currently, 14 out of 33 negotiation chapters that Ankara must close in order to become a member are frozen. In contrast, both Serbia and Montenegro have proceeded further than Turkey in their EU accession talks despite only opening negotiations with Brussels in the past decade.

Cavusoglu said that “despite populist-riven debates on whether Turkey should be granted EU membership, my country is a candidate destined to join the EU as indicated in the accession partnership document.”

He suggested that EU member states should have a say on Turkish membership after negotiations with the bloc have ended: “the final political decision on whether a candidate country is fit for membership should be taken at the very end of the process, not when some member states deem it necessary in line with their national agenda.”

Cavusoglu added that “today, the Turkish people still overwhelmingly believe in the EU project, but a vast majority do not trust the EU due to double standards and discrimination against Turkey.”

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.

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