Merkel Asks EU Leaders to Cut Accession Talk Funds for Turkey

German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives on the first day of the European Council Meeting in Brussels, 19 October 2017. (Photo: STEPHANIE LECOCQ/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on European Union (EU) member countries to cut funds reserved for Turkey’s membership bid in the bloc. Her proposal was supported by Belgium and the Netherlands.

Although Merkel previously made several statements implying that Turkey’s 12-year accession talks should be ended, this time she says she wants to keep talking to Turkey and “avoid a showdown.”

“The rule of law in Turkey is moving in the wrong direction. We are very concerned about this. I will push for the pre-accession funds to be reduced,” Merkel announced at the EU summit on Thursday.

Merkel went on to praise Turkey’s role in alleviating refugee crisis in Europe by admitting Syrian refugees, but she criticized the “absolutely unsatisfying human rights situation” in the country, referring to Ankara’s crackdown after failed 2016 coup attempt.

Reuters reported that her calls received support from Belgium and the Netherlands – both countries that came under fire from Ankara for what Turkish government perceived as conflicting views.

“Everyone knows that those negotiations are de facto frozen, are de facto almost dead,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, while Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte concluded that the talks were “dormant” and “wouldn’t be re-energised for the time being,”

The 2017 EU budget for Turkey is 500 million euros, and the European Parliament has proposed to initially cut 50 million, with another 30 million for further cuts in case of new diplomatic showdowns with Turkey. The vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

While Austria demanded an end to membership talks with Ankara, Poland, Britain and Sweden still see Turkey as a potential EU member. The Turkish question has also been at the center of German domestic political debate, with an overwhelming support for harder stance on Ankara.

The failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey triggered a crisis in diplomatic relations with Brussels, when the government’s crackdown was followed by a declaration of a state of emergency which is still in place, resulting in more than 50,000 people arrested – including German and EU nationals – and over 150,000 people sacked from public sector jobs.

While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says these measures are justified by the need to address national security concerns and root out “a deeply embedded network of Gulen supporters”, Turkey’s Western allies accused him of using the coup aftermath to quash all dissent and opposition.

In March, the Turkish government had a diplomatic row with the Netherlands over Turkish politicians’ attempts at campaigning in Dutch cities ahead of constitution change referendum.

Similar diplomatic spats followed with Germany, with Erdogan accusing Berlin of racism, Nazism, populism, being enemies of Turkey and abetting terrorists by not responding to reports sent to Berlin or handing over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities. He also called on German citizens of Turkish origin not to vote for Merkel and other contenders across the political spectrum.

In August , Germany’s requested to put financial pressure on Turkey, after Ankara’s refusal to let German lawmakers visit soldiers serving at military bases in the country.

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