‘New chapters won’t be opened before Cyprus issue solved’

 Source: TodaysZaman

A member of the German Bundestag, from the ruling party, has said that his country is not willing to help with the unblocking of two key chapters in the negotiations for Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union.

Matern von Marschall, who is a member of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union from the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Socialist Union (CDU/CSU), told a small group of Turkish journalists in Berlin that the German government is not going to support the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, which refer to fundamental rights and justice, before the Cyprus issue has been solved.

“We will not disconnect those issues,” he said, adding that this is also the position of the EU, in contrast with Turkey’s stance, which evaluates the Cyprus dispute separately.

He made the statement in answer to questions from a few Turkish journalists, shortly after Turkey’s fresh EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır visited Berlin to tell Germany that Turkey is fully committed to entering the 28-member bloc.

The EU began accession talks with Turkey on 35 negotiating chapters in 2005, but there has been little progress since then, amid opposition to Turkish membership in some EU countries, including Germany, and the unresolved Cyprus dispute.

Asked whether Germany would open Chapters 23 and 24 if Cyprus unblocked them, he said, “This could be possible.”

“If those chapters are opened and no progress has been reported, then they will be closed and not opened again. We support waiting until we see progress,” he added.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey sent troops there after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Turkey does not recognize Greek Cyprus as a state and opposes its offshore energy exploration.
The Greek Cypriot government recently suspended reunification talks, accusing Turkey of violating the EU member country’s sovereign rights and international law.

Marschall said the European Commission (EC) report was disappointing in terms of Turkey’s development. He said the main problematic areas are the Turkish government’s undermining of judicial independence and freedom of expression and the government’s handling of corruption allegations.

In response to serious allegations of corruption on Dec. 17 of last year, the government alleged that there had been an attempted judicial coup by a parallel structure within the state, controlled by the Fethullah Gülen movement. Prosecutors and police officers in charge of the original investigations were removed from their posts. A significant number of reassignments and dismissals in the police, civil service and the judiciary followed, accompanied by legal measures in the judiciary. In addition, a number of police officers have been detained in the process.

Nevertheless, the EC report stated that the EU should remain an important anchor for Turkey’s economic and political reforms: “In this regard, it is in the interest of both Turkey and the EU that the opening benchmarks for chapter 23: Judiciary and Fundamental rights and 24: Justice, Freedom and security are defined as soon as possible, leading to [the] opening of negotiations under these two chapters.”

German Chancellor and Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel has long been skeptical about giving full membership to Turkey, but the CDU agreed as part of their coalition agreement with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 2013 that accession talks with the country should continue in an “open-ended” way, without a pledge for full membership.

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