Austrian Chancellor calls for cessation of EU-Turkey accession talks

Austrian Chancellor calls for cessation of EU-Turkey accession talks
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Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer calls for an end to Turkey's EU accession talks, urging instead for the development of a mutually beneficial partnership amidst signs of willingness from Turkey to revitalize relations.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer urged for the official cessation of the negotiation process between Turkey and the European Union (EU), a process that commenced 18 years ago but has been frozen for the last five years. In a candid interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Nehammer emphasized the need for transparency, stating that the EU should openly acknowledge the improbability of Turkey's accession to the union.

"Alternative pathways must be explored for fostering good neighborly relations, and a new partnership grounded in mutual trust and collaboration in economic and political spheres should be established between the EU and Turkey," the Chancellor remarked. He further added that while Austria is in favor of closer relations between Ankara and Brussels, Turkey's full membership in the EU is "absolutely unacceptable" for Austria.

Reiterating Turkey's ongoing importance as a partner for the EU, Nehammer, who also leads the conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP), noted that Turkey and Austria are currently collaborating effectively at a bilateral level to enhance relations between the two countries. "We will be meeting with Turkish President Erdoğan in the near future," he mentioned, highlighting the sustained significance of Turkey in the international arena.

Discussing the crisis in Ukraine, Nehammer proposed a ceasefire to alleviate the sufferings endured by the populace following Russia's unlawful invasion. He also advocated for Turkey's inclusion in potential ceasefire and peace negotiations.

Following the corruption investigation initiated against former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in December 2021 and his subsequent withdrawal from politics, Nehammer assumed office promising to elevate relations with Turkey to a better level. He underscored the considerable importance of this advancement from various aspects.

This appeal by Nehammer comes shortly after Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan's statement last week emphasizing the necessity to revitalize relations based on the prospect of membership. During a joint press conference in Ankara with Oliver Varhelyi, the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Fidan urged the EU to display the necessary will to progress relations and to act more boldly.

Historically, Austria has been consistently opposing Turkey's EU accession process. In 2005, at Austria's insistence, the framework document prepared for Turkey's accession negotiations included a clause mentioning the exploration of alternative options besides membership. Austrian Foreign Minister Aleksander Schallenberg, last July, vocalized a clear stance advocating for a pragmatic and functional neighborhood relationship with Turkey instead of persisting with the "illusion" of accession talks that have essentially been dead for years.

Sebastian Kurz, who served as the Austrian Chancellor in 2018, had promptly after taking office stated that the EU membership negotiations with Turkey should be halted without further delay, citing Turkey’s increasing divergence from European values and principles over recent years. He suggested that focus should be placed on identifying different cooperation options based on neighborhood relations between the EU and Turkey.

Meanwhile, recent statements from the German government indicate a favorable inclination towards fostering enhanced relations between the EU and Turkey. Post the elections in Turkey, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed a desire to utilize opportunities for initiating new and productive collaborations between the EU and Turkey. Scholz reiterated his commitment to work towards improving relations in a positive direction between the EU and Turkey, and between Germany and Turkey. He also mentioned that the EU Commission has been tasked with preparing a report to analyze the current state of relations with Turkey and to propose how cooperation could be revitalized and advanced further, fostering hopes for a fresh start in EU-Turkey relations.

During the G20 Leaders Summit, Chancellor Scholz met with President Erdoğan in New Delhi, India. Following the meeting, it was announced that discussions to reactivate the Turkey-EU dialogue mechanism are underway.

Turkey has held the status of an EU candidate since 1999, with negotiations officially starting in December 2005. Since 2018, these negotiations have been suspended, with only one out of the 35 negotiation chapters being closed despite 16 being opened before the process stalled. This indicates a significant journey ahead in crafting a renewed, pragmatic relationship between Turkey and the European Union.