European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on August 4 that Turkey is currently unfit to become a member of the EU, but at the same time he rejected growing calls for the bloc to end accession talks with Ankara.
The latest comments come as relations between Turkey and the West have become strained since July’s failed coup attempt in Turkey. Ankara feels Washington and Brussels have not supported it in the aftermath of the coup, but instead reserved its criticisms for the government’s moves to root out the army factions and other allies it accuses of being involved, as well as the alleged mastermind, the exiled US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen. The Turkish government and public are incensed at the US’ failure to extradite Gulen, who has been living in the US since 1999. The US says it needs hard evidence of Gulen’s involvement, which US reports on August 5 claim has not been forthcoming.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said earlier this week that he would start a discussion among European leaders to quit accession talks with Turkey, because of the country’s democratic and economic deficits.
However, Juncker commented on August 4, AFP reported, that: ”I don’t think it would be helpful if we were to unilaterally end negotiations with Turkey,” adding that he does not see such a willingness among all member states at this point.
However, he admitted that, ”Turkey cannot be a member of the European Union in its current state, and especially not if it decided to reinstate the death penalty. That would lead to the immediate breaking off of negotiations”.
Following last month’s failed coup attempt, the government in Ankara mooted the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty that it abolished in 2004 as part of its EU reforms for the plotters.
Brussels needs Ankara to stop the flow of migrants into Europe. But the fate of the key refugee deal, signed in March, is now uncertain because of the tensions between the bloc and Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu once again warned earlier this week that Turkey could pull out of the deal to stem the flow of migrants if the EU failed to deliver visa-free travel for its citizens by October.
The EU and US have called on Turkey to respect the rule of law and democratic fundamentals as the government widens the crackdown on the Gulenist network. Thousands of people, including military officers, policemen, judges, prosecutors and state employees have been suspended for their alleged links to Gulen.
The government says it will continue its crackdown until it roots out all Gulen supporters from state institutions.
Turkey complains that its Western allies are underestimating the threat that supporters of the US-based cleric, who the government claims was behind the coup attempt, pose to the country.
Even so, the Wall Street Journal reported on August 5, citing unidentified people familiar with the issue, that US officials don’t expect to extradite Gulen, as they aren’t convinced of the evidence that Turkey has so far presented.