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Iran Press TV

Turkey sees no progress with EU under Austria's presidency

Iran Press TV

Fri Jun 29, 2018 01:56PM

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu believes that no positive steps will be taken with the European Union this year as Austria will take over the bloc's six-month rotating presidency.

From July 1, Austria will hold the rotating presidency of the EU. It will give Austria an important say in setting the agenda at the many meetings between member states. Vienna has vowed to shift the bloc's focus away from resettling further refugees within Europe.

Ties between Ankara and Vienna have been strained in recent months over a number of issues, including Austria's stance toward refugees and the country's opposition to Ankara's accession to the EU.

"I don't think there will be positive steps taken during Austria's term presidency. We spoke at length with the Austrian foreign minister, but unfortunately, the current chancellor is even more extreme than the far-right party," Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster NTV on Friday.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's conservatives and the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPOe) formed a coalition government in December 2017, making Austria the only Western European government with a far-right party in its government.

Cavusoglu told NTV that he did not expect positive steps on opening new chapters, or policy areas, in Turkey's accession bid in the coming term, but added that the issue of visa liberalization and updating Turkey's Customs Union agreement with the bloc would be discussed with EU officials.

Turkey has been trying to accede to the EU since the late 1980s, and formal accession talks eventually started in 2005.

A series of factors have slowed the talks, especially the Cyprus issue and resistance in Germany and France to Turkey's membership, but the talks have effectively been halted since Turkey began a massive crackdown on supposed putschists following an abortive coup in 2016. The EU has reacted strongly to Ankara's purging of thousands of people from organizations and institutions over alleged links to the coup attempt.

On Wednesday, the EU said the talks with Turkey had reached a deadlock over Turkey's alleged rights violations and judicial failures. Ankara reacted and strongly criticized the "hypocritical" and "prejudiced" EU.

"There are areas where we can work together, but opening chapters or not is a political issue. We expect better cooperation in the next term, once Austria's presidency is over," Cavusoglu said. Romania will take over the presidency of the EU on January 1, 2019.

Turkey has threatened that a failure to grant it membership in the EU would trigger Ankara's departure from another deal with the bloc, which is about stemming the flow of refugees into Europe. Under the deal, Turkey has agreed to take back any asylum seekers who land in Greece via Turkish territory in return for cash and accelerated membership talks.

In the interview, Turkey's foreign minister expressed hope that a 3-billion-euro ($3.49 billion) aid payment to Turkey would be delivered without delay. It would be the second payment from the 2016 refugee deal.

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