The 36th Turkey-EU Joint Consultative Committee kicked-off in Brussels on Tuesday with Ankara pressing for a full membership to the European body despite EU member states’ harsh criticism of its human rights record and political openness.
Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik urged the EU to “support Turkey during this difficult period in the region by understanding the reasons for the fight against terrorism, by providing visa liberalization and especially by accelerating the accession process.”
Negotiations have been ongoing for 12 years but reached their lowest point in 2007 over the disputed Cyprus territory that is under Turkish control.
After the closed door meeting with EU’s permanent representation in Brussels, Celik said that Cyprus was discussed while admitting that the “latest chance to arrive at a solution has been missed” during the talks in Switzerland. “Turkey is certainly on the side of the solution,” he said, but rejected calls for Turkish troops to be withdrawn from the island at the beginning of talks. “This is out of the question.”
The Eastern Mediterranean Island has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the Turks on the island and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.
Turkey’s ascension to the EU could further be complicated following the approval of a 2016 commission report on Turkey by the European Parliament in a non-binding vote. The report recommended that accession talks be suspended if Turkey upheld the then planned constitutional changes–reforms that were approved a few months ago.
Berlin and Paris are also against granting full membership to Turkey.
Celik stressed that joining the EU is a “strategic aim” for the government as he criticized the “double standard” experienced during negotiations. Turkish and EU officials have had an exchange of words over reforms that Turkey wants to introduce, such as the death penalty, as well as the implementation of agreements signed between the two sides, especially the migrant deal.