Turkey Moves Ahead With Entry Bid to Reluctant European Union

  • Membership talks restart in Brussels after two-year hiatus
  • EU offers concessions to Turkey to win cooperation on refugees

European Union governments set aside criticism of Turkey’s civil-liberties record and restarted the country’s membership bid after a two-year lull in a concession to win Turkish help in halting the flow of refugees from the Middle East.

Turkey on Monday opened talks to align its economic and monetary legislation with the EU, a step that would pave the way for it to adopt the euro if and when it joins the now 28-nation bloc.

That date is far off: Turkey has made it a fraction of the way through a EU legislative checklist since launching the entry process a decade ago, a pace that in purely mathematical terms would put it on track to join in 350 years. Turkish officials said it is time for the EU to get serious about opening the door.

“The process is still alive and kicking,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told reporters. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to become a full EU member.”

EU governments revived the entry talks, dormant since November 2013, as part of a package of economic and political incentives to encourage Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to house refugees in Turkey instead of pointing them to western Europe.

Germany, one of the leading skeptics of Turkey’s EU credentials, has pushed the hardest for the package, which includes 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of financial aid and a promise of visa-free travel for Turks.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the embrace of Turkey won’t mute EU criticisms of Erdogan’s handling of political opponents. Noting EU questions about the independence of judges and the media, he said Turkey must tackle “a number of serious shortcomings” to speed up its effort to join.

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