Opening of Chapter 22 welcome but late: Erdogan

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has welcomed the recently announced opening of Chapter 22 in Turkey’s EU accession process, referring to it as a positive step.

However he added that the move was late and insufficient, indicating that there had been a significant time lag in Turkey’s EU candidacy. Responding to reporters’ questions in Ankara before his departure for Russia yesterday, Erdogan said: “This is a positive step, although it is late. However, it is certainly not satisfactory for us because faster steps need to be taken [by the EU] as there has been a massive amount of time wasted.”

The European Union’s General Affairs Council approved the opening of a new chapter in Turkey’s accession to the EU on Tuesday, deciding that an intergovernmental conference for this purpose will be held on 5th November.

Although the opening of Chapter 22 was approved in June, the actual start of the talks was postponed until after the announcement of the European Commission’s annual progress report on 16th October in reaction to Turkey’s aggressive handling of the Gezi Park protests, which began as a small environmental protest in late May but mushroomed into a nationwide anti-government movement.

In reference to Turkey’s obstacle-strewn path on its 50 year journey towards EU membership, the prime minister said that initially, there were 15 Chapters to be completed but that the number had been increased to 35. Erdogan also mentioned the negative attitude towards Turkey’s EU accession, pointing, in particular to France and Germany. “The intervention of France on this issue — of course I refer to the [former French President Nicolas] Sarkozy era — has affected the process negatively. That negative [atmosphere in the accession] process seems to be over with the presidency of Hollande, as France doesn’t handle the issue negatively these days. I hope that after this period of time, Chancellor Merkel will approach the issue more positively,” he said, adding, “I believe that from now, there will be more positive steps and we will cover ground more rapidly.”

France and Germany have been particularly negative towards Turkey’s full EU accession talks, which have been frozen for three years. German Chancellor Angela Merkel attempted to block Chapter 22 following the Gezi Park protests and the Turkish police force’s brutal response to what had begun as peaceful demonstrations.

However, she later welcomed an agreement to reopen talks with Turkey and distanced herself from her previously stiffly critical comments but maintained that democratic values were “non-negotiable” in Turkey’s accession process

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