European Union governments agreed to restart entry talks with Turkey after a three-year pause, using potential membership as an incentive for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to strengthen civil liberties.
EU affairs ministers at a meeting today in Luxembourg set Nov. 5 for the renewed negotiations, according to a European Commission statement. The meeting was postponed in June after Erdogan’s crackdown on protesters in Istanbul.
While membership is far off, each step has a “positive influence” on life in Turkey, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters. “Breaking it off would rob the people in Turkey of all hope as to the European Union’s promotion of basic freedoms for Turkish citizens.”
Eight years after starting down the EU path, Turkey has made it only 1/35th of the way through a checklist of legislative and policy moves required for membership. The stalemate reflects the economically beleaguered EU’s waning appetite to take in new countries and Turkey’s renewed focus on the Middle East.
The next phase of talks will align Turkey’s regional-aid policies with EU norms. The European Commission is also pressing for negotiations on Turkey’s civil rights and justice system, a topic left for the end of the process in prior EU enlargements.