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The European Union opened a new chapter with Turkey on Nov. 5 following a three-year hiatus, with top Turkish officials praising the new era with the bloc even as they demanded accelerated negotiations with the union.

European Union Minister Egemen Bağış and Development Minister Cevdet Yılmaz attended the Ministerial Accession Conference in Brussels to start negotiations on Chapter 22 which covers regional policy and coordination of structural instruments. The chapter covers one of the core EU policies, supporting job creation, competitiveness, innovation, economic growth, improved quality of life and sustainable development. Continue Reading »

The European Union agreed Oct. 22 to restart membership talks with Turkey next month, reviving Ankara’s long-stalled bid after a three-year break. The announcement received a cautious welcome from Turkey, with EU Minister Egemen Bağış saying it was important to open a new chapter but warning that “it takes more than one flower for it to be spring.”

EU European and foreign affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg said the talks would resume in two weeks, with an inter-governmental conference to be held in Brussels on Nov. 5. The chapter on regional development – Chapter 22 – will be the 14th of 35 opened with Turkey.  Continue Reading »

Germany has given the green light for the opening of the 22nd chapter in the EU accession negotiations, daily Hürriyet reported Oct. 20.

The formal launch of talks regarding the chapter on regional policy, which was delayed until after the release of the 2013 EU progress report due to Berlin’s reticence to engage in a new step forward during the government’s crackdown on the Gezi Park protests between May and July, will mark a first in the last two and a half years. Continue Reading »

European Union governments agreed on Monday to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on the EU terrorism blacklist in a reversal of past policy fuelled by concerns over the Lebanese militant movement’s activities in Europe.

Britain and the Netherlands have pressed EU peers since May to put the Shi’ite Muslim group’s military wing on the bloc’s terrorism list, citing evidence it was behind a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver.

Until now, the EU had resisted pressure from Washington and Israel to blacklist Hezbollah, arguing such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon, where the group is part of the government, and add to tensions in the Middle East.
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The European Union’s commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Füle, has expressed concern over the detention of Taksim Solidarity Platform members who were involved from the start of the Gezi Park protests.

“The European Commission is concerned at reports of the detention of members of Taksim Solidarity – and other members of the public wishing to exercise their right to free assembly – in Istanbul yesterday,” Füle said in a statement issued July 9.
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The European Union is the most successful ever peace project. On a continent that fought so many wars all through the history, nations, through EU membership, were made interdependent economically, politically and to some degree culturally. Members are required to act in solidarity. Irrespective of their sizes, these members were granted full equality.

The last sentence was the crux of the EU. Only through equality of all members, irrespective of the sizes of countries, are the smaller states protected from being politically smashed by the heavyweights such as France, Germany or Britain. Still, no EU decision can be transferred into life unless the EU heavyweights, particularly Germany, subscribe to them. As the Nasraddin Hodja joke underscores, whoever pays for it blows the fiddle. If most EU countries subscribe the idea that bigger countries should contribute more to the EU budget and funds, then that means there is a sort of a money-fiddle deal. Continue Reading »

No, it is not over yet. It is true that the fire has been put off, thanks to the busy diplomatic traffic carried out by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu over the last few days. However, as announced by Davutoğlu himself right after a final telephone call with German Foreign Minister Guidio Westerwelle, the outcome can be interpreted as follows: The EU agreed not to block the opening of the 22nd chapter on “Regional Policies,” which is good, but it also linked it to voting by the 27 member states following Turkey’s Progress Report, which is released in the fall. This means that Brussels expects Ankara to take some additional steps to enhance freedoms, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly in particular. Those two issues were particularly mentioned by U.S. President Barack Obama during his telephone call with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan on June 24. Continue Reading »

A crisis that erupted in Turkey’s EU full membership negotiation process was prevented at the last minute. Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu yesterday welcomed the decision that European Union General Affairs Council (GAC) had unanimously agreed to the opening of Chapter 22 on regional policies.

The opening of this chapter, which had been decided upon long ago was jeopardized because of the environment that was created by the Gezi incidents, which was contradictory to the standards regarding Europe’s human rights and freedom of expression. The prevention of this crisis at the last moment was very important for Turkey’s domestic politics and diplomatic relations. Continue Reading »

We all know German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s negative approach to Turkey’s membership of the European Union.

She never hides it. The reason why her objection to Turkey’s accession process has not led to a crisis in bilateral relations up to now was the presence of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He was so active in his opposition to Turkey that Merkel did not have to move a finger. Sarkozy got all the bashing from Turkey, while Merkel’s statement that “we will remain loyal to past commitments” received a storm of applause from Turkish audiences. Continue Reading »

Comparing the Turkish police’s brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators to other countries’ police interventions is pointless and not helpful, according to EU ambassadors, who have requested “transparency and accountability” in the investigation into the Turkish police’s harsh crackdowns on civilians during the Gezi Park protests.

In the face of harsh criticisms from the international community, the Turkish government increased its efforts to explain to the world the motives of the three-week protests, with “evidence” detailing how the protests turned violent.

Accompanied by İbrahim Kalın, an adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and top police officials, EU Minister Egemen Bağış hosted EU ambassadors at a lunch on June 25. Ambassadors were given a dossier of pictures and were shown a 15-minute recording, including footage showing used beer cans in the Dolmabahçe Mosque.
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