Turkey further from EU than decades ago – von der Leyen

The European Commission president says Ankara has made “no progress” in joining the bloc

Today’s Turkey is further from the EU than it was decades ago when it applied to join the bloc, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview published on Tuesday. 

Spanish news website elDiario.es asked von der Leyen on Monday about Ankara’s prospects of finally joining the European bloc. 

She replied: “There is no progress and this is enough. So it’s in Turkey’s hands to change something about it.” 

“The accession process is flexible to the extent that it very much depends on the development in the applicant country,” von der Leyen said.

The most telling examples are Turkey and Slovakia. Both obtained the European perspective [on accession] in 1999, and, five years later, Slovakia became a member of the European Union. They did everything to succeed in moving forward, with enormous national unity. And Turkey today is further from the European Union than before.

Turkey formally applied to join the EU in 1987 and was declared eligible for membership in 1999. But the talks stalled in the early 2000s, initially because of Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member.

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In 2019, the European Parliament voted to suspend accession talks, citing concerns over Turkey’s human rights record. 

Turkish officials have reiterated over the years that Ankara remains determined to join the EU one day. “We appreciate the efforts to get Ukraine EU membership. But I ask the EU members: Why does Turkey’s membership in the EU worry you?” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in March. He asked Brussels to afford Turkey the “same sensitivity” it showed Kiev. 

Turkey recently said it would block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, a US-led military bloc, accusing the two Nordic nations of backing Kurdish insurgent groups.