Turkey links EU accession talks progress to migration control deal

The Independent — Turkey’s government has said it would reject any deal for a closer partnership with the European Union that did not involve becoming a full member.

Omer Celik, the country’s minister for EU affairs, said in an interview on Friday that he did not take proposals for a “privileged partnership” seriously and that “such an offer will not even be considered”.

Turkey has been an official EU candidate state since 1999 and has had a limited customs union with the EU since 1995 – but full membership of the EU now appears more unlikely than ever.

The process has now been effectively suspended, with EU institutions citing the growing authoritarianism of Turkey’s government. A number of heads of government, including Angela Merkel, have also said they would block Turkey’s accession to the union.

The EU sometimes establishes looser partnerships of “association” arrangements with countries such as Ukraine, without making them full members. The aim of the agreements is to bring the countries’ economies closer to that of the EU without granting full membership.

Mr Celik dismissed any suggestion of Turkey signing up to such an agreement: “A privileged partnership or similar approaches, we don’t take any of these seriously. Turkey cannot be offered such a thing.

“Whatever it would be called, a privileged partnership or cooperation against terrorism, such an offer will not even be considered by Turkey.”

Mr Celik added that the EU was not honouring all parts of a deal it had signed with Turkey for €3bn  in financial aid in return for Turkey stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.  He pointed to the lack of progress in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, travel and customs agreements to hint that Turkey may scrap the migration control deal,  if the EU does not satisfy Turkish demands.

The migration deal included the lifting of short-term visa requirements imposed on Turks by the EU, but the implementation of this policy has been waylaid by disagreement over anti-terror laws introduced by the Erdogan government, which Europe says are too broad.