00:08 GMT +312 November 2019
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    Turkey's EU Accession: There is No Good in Pushing Ankara 'Into a Corner'

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    EU-Turkish relations are heading toward a serious crisis, Murat Bilhan, Vice President of the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM) told Sputnik, adding that despite the fact that Ankara has been pushed into a corner, Turkey is not a country that can be easily ignored by EU members.

    Tensions are growing between Brussels and Ankara over Turkey's EU accession talks, Murat Bilhan, Vice President of the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM) think tank, told Sputnik Turkiye on Monday, expressing his doubts regarding the prospects of Turkey's integration with the EU.

    "Tough statements made by some leaders of the EU in regard to the persecution of the opposition, limiting press freedom and arrests of public figures in Turkey are supported by the European public," Bilhan emphasized and added: "It shows the futility of current efforts to integrate Turkey into the EU."

    At the same time, the scholar called attention to the fact that there is certain interdependence between Turkey and the EU.

    "Indeed, Turkey has found itself squeezed into a corner, but Turkey is not a country that can be easily neglected. In addition the EU's methods and rules require fairly lengthy procedures of full terminating or freezing relations. The EU understands the strategic and geopolitical importance of Turkey," Bilhan emphasized, adding that, however, the EU-Turkish relationship is heading towards a serious crisis.

    Indeed, in the course of the Monday meeting in Brussels EU foreign ministers criticized Ankara's crackdown on alleged supporters of the July coup attempt in Turkey.

    Some of them, according to Reuters, called for halting the negotiations on Turkey's EU accession.

    "I am not for the continuation of entry negotiations and I believe that this Turkey does not have a place in the European Union," Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stressed, as cited by the media outlet.

    However, Germany and France highlighted the importance to continue the talks with Ankara.

    "Turkey is too important to us — not least because of the close personal times between our two countries — that we could afford to renounce dialogue, particularly in these difficult times," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters.

    For his part, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned his counterparts against pushing Turkey "into a corner."

    "We should not push Turkey into a corner, we should not overreact in a way that is against our collective interests," Johnson told broadcaster ITV News, as quoted by Turkish media outlet Daily Sabah.

    Furthermore, Johnson urged the bloc to "tone down its opposition" to Ankara reintroducing the death penalty, the Independent noted, adding that the remark raised a lot of eyebrows in Brussels.

    "Mr. Johnson told the room that some EU states had previously taken time to abolish the death penalty in the 1980s and 1990s — and that this had not been an automatic bar on membership," the media outlet reported.

    However, the media outlet specified that "the Foreign Secretary was in no way defending [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan but simply stating the facts," citing an unnamed British source with knowledge of the meeting.

    Ahead of the Brussels meeting the European Commission released the Turkey 2016 report, drawing attention to both Ankara cracking down against those allegedly involved in the July coup and a very serious deterioration in the security situation in the country's south-east regions inhabited by the Kurds.

    "Regarding its ability to assume the obligations of membership, Turkey has continued to align with the acquis. With the positive exception of the visa liberalization related work, efforts continued at a limited pace… In all areas, more attention needs to be given to enforce legislation whilst many areas require further significant progress to achieve legislative alignment with the EU acquis," the report stated.

    Speaking to Sputnik, Bilhan assumed that Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election as well as the result of the UK's Brexit vote have indicated that the right-wing movement in the US and Europe is gaining pace.

    Simultaneously, the popularity of right-wing parties is also growing in Turkey, he remarked.

    According to Bilhan, the rise of right-wing parties both in Europe and Turkey could further aggravate tensions in relations between Ankara and its European partners.

    Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan announced on Monday that Turkey could hold a referendum on whether to continue integration talks with the EU next year.

    "Let's wait until the end of the year and then go to the people. Let's go to the people since they will make the final call. Even Britain went to the people. Britain said 'let's exit', and they left," Erdogan said, as quoted by Reuters.

    "Our patience has its limits," he stressed.


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