'Blackmail' and 'Betrayal'! Turkish Minister Slams EU for Imperiling Membership
03:02 16.09.2017(updated 05:54 16.09.2017)
The war of words between the European Union and their tenuous ally Turkey continues to intensify, with a Turkish official accusing the EU of "blackmail" for threatening to kill Turkey's membership bid. This came after the EU head accused Turkey of taking "giant strides" away from the union.
Omer Celik, Turkey's Minister of European Union Affairs and the Chief Negotiator for Turkish Accession to the European Union, accused the European Commission of "using the EU negotiating process as a way to blackmail Turkey," which he called a "weakening and discrediting [of] the EU institutions."
Celik added that the EU's criticism of his government was a deflection to take attention away from the EU's problems. "They put all those aside and they stoke antagonism towards Turkey in order to cover up their vital internal problems," he said. "At one of the hardest times in our history we were left alone by our friends and allies." He also called the EU schism a "betrayal."
Celik's condemnation came after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made negative comments about Turkey during the European Union General Assembly. "For some considerable time, Turkey has been moving away from the European Union in leaps and bounds."
"I appeal today to the powers that be in Turkey: Let our journalists go. Stop calling our member states and members of governments fascists and Nazis," said Juncker, referring to comments from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier in September that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had engaged in "Nazism" when she criticized Ankara and hinted that she might oppose Turkey's membership bid.
"Europe is a continent of mature democracy, those who knowingly offend pull up the drawbridge and sometimes I have the impression that there are those in Turkey who want to pull up the drawbridge and later blame the European Union for the failure of accession negotiations," Juncker continued.
His comments were a more diplomatic phrasing of hardline comments from Merkel, who said during a televised debate that "The fact is clear that Turkey should not become an EU member."
Celik condemned both comments, but also expressed a desire to reach a diplomatic solution to the schism. "It was as if they had entered a contest to find the best way to keep Turkey at a distance and harm Turkey. To Mr Juncker and to Germany, I strongly suggest that we should have some Turkish coffee diplomacy."
Celik's criticism notably excluded the United Kingdom, which has been undergoing its own schism with the EU following the Brexit. "The UK is acting as a real ally, a role model, standing with Turkey in the initial days after the coup attempt and helping to strengthen Turkey's defense capacity," Celik said. "The British, like ourselves, aim to find a way forward in relations. With other countries, it's not about finding a way forward, it's about finding tools to blackmail us."
He went on to say that the EU should give Turkey's membership bid a renewed push. While Turkey's long-standing bid still stands, it was frozen following Ankara's crackdown on alleged dissidents following the 2016 coup attempt.
Celik also pushed for the EU to deliver $3.6 billion in aid as it promised to do in exchange for Turkey taking in a large share of migrants and refugees that poured into Europe as a result of unrest and fighting in countries like Syria and Iraq.
EU ambassador to Ankara Christian Berger has contested these claims, saying that the EU has paid out $970 million of the promised funds and the rest would be allocated in due time.
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