Developments after local polls spur greater concern about Turkey - Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey’s political turmoil since the March 31 local elections had not made the country’s EU bid more likely, but instead led to greater concerns, BBC Turkish reported on Thursday.
“The current developments after the local elections do not make it more likely that Turkey will join the European Union. On the contrary, they lead to general concerns about developments in Turkey,” the German chancellor said in an interview with German journalists.
In local polls on March 31, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered major blows, as it lost control of Turkey’s most populous cities, including Istanbul and Ankara.
The AKP challenged the Istanbul mayoral vote, citing severe electoral fraud, and Turkey’s election council last week annulled the Istanbul vote and scheduled an election rerun on June 23.
In southern and eastern provinces of Turkey, some elected mayors of the predominantly Kurdish Democratic People’s Party were denied authorisation for being dismissed from public sector jobs during a two-year emergency rule declared after a failed coup attempt in 2016. Under the emergency rule, the Turkish government had previously replaced more than 90 mayors of the HDP elected in 2014 with appointed mayors.
“I have always said that I have not foreseen full membership of Turkey possible. The negotiations have been continuing open-ended. I have always talked about a special relationship with a country that is so important for us,” Merkel said.
According to Merkel, Turkey and European countries differ in political values, but are tied with common interests, including the war in Syria and the struggle against Islamist terrorism.
Official accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU started in 2005, but talks have slowed in recent years, over concerns on Ankara’s drift away from democratic values. In March, the European Parliament called on EU leaders to formally suspend Turkey's accession talks. Manfred Weber, the lead candidate to become the new president of the European Commission in October, also supports ending accession negotiations with Turkey.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said this week that Ankara had no doubt that Turkey’s EU process could be put back on track and called on EU leaders to restart accession negotiations.