Turkey tells EU it may postpone competition chapter if needed

Turkey tells EU it may postpone competition chapter if needed

State Minister Egemen Bağış

January 15, 2011, Saturday/ 17:37:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

If Turkey eventually concludes that opening the competition chapter, one of the 35 policy areas of membership talks with the European Union, will pose risks to its economy, then it may decide to delay efforts to open this chapter, State Minister Egemen Bağış has stated.

Remarks by Bağış, Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks, were made in Budapest late on Thursday as he attended a meeting of ministers from EU member and candidate countries. Hungary took over the six-month-long rotating presidency of the EU from Belgium on Jan. 1. “The Hungarian term presidency said it would do its best to open negotiations on the competition chapter. Our stance on this issue is obvious. Turkey wants the competition chapter to be opened. But we will not put our economy at risk just to open the competition chapter,” Bağış was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

The competition chapter is one of the three chapters currently able to be opened and the previous Belgian presidency ended without opening any chapter on negotiations, with both the Turkish and the EU-Belgian sides cited technical reasons for the delay on the competition chapter.

“We have determined our limitations and we have been sharing them with both the [European] Commission and the member countries. How nice it will be if they display a will for opening this chapter within the framework of our limitations. We clearly and bluntly told them that we will venture to postpone the opening of this chapter if need be if they don’t [display such will]; if they solely focus on the competition chapter -- which is negotiated as the last chapter in cases with other [candidate] countries -- and if they hold unfair expectations of us,” Bağış said.

In London, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle on Thursday voiced frustration at the slow pace of talks on Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

“I understand and share the Turkish frustration. We need new momentum [in the talks],” Füle was quoted as saying by the BBC. The competition chapter might be opened before the end of March “once Turkey delivers on the remaining tasks,” he also said.

In İstanbul, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu deplored EU leaders’ “lack of vision” in blocking Ankara’s EU accession talks and described EU visa-free deals for Western Balkan countries as “unacceptable discrimination.”

“We expect more determination from the EU. We expect Europe to keeps its promises regarding the full membership of Turkey,” Davutoğlu said at a joint press conference in İstanbul following talks with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The current stalemate in accession talks shows “a lack of vision on the part of the EU,” Davutoğlu said. On visas, he deemed “unacceptable” the fact that the union has granted visa-free travel to Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania in the past two years, while Turkish citizens face “negative discrimination.” For her part, Ashton said she wanted to have “the right strategic dialogue” with Turkey, which she described as “a very, very important partner in our world affairs.”

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