The EU has agreed to resume membership talks with Turkey. It has been more than three years since there has been negotiations. The restart of talks is an attempt to boost the prospect of democratic reforms and human rights in Turkey. There is a fear that the country is moving towards autocracy under the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In an 2013 Progress report, the Commission criticised Turkey’s law enforcement in dealing with protests. However, there has been praise for the Turkish Prime Minister. The commission recognised the country’s promising judicial reforms and increased rights for the Kurds. Nonetheless, some EU states continue to criticise Turkey’s crackdown on anti-government protests. Germany and France along with others are opposed to Turkey joining the EU.
Relations between the EU and Turkey has been frosty recently. This is due to some members of the Turkish government arguing that the EU is in decline and Turkey is on the rise as a key regional and economic power.
Although, there has been unease with the restart of negotiations, Lithuania has congratulated Turkey. Lithuania currently holds the EU Presidency. Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister said that the negotiating process was long overdue.
Turkey has been an associate member of the EU since 1963. Turkey met the last condition in 2005. However the negotiations froze over concerns of tensions with Cyprus which is an EU member, freedom of speech and democracy, treatment of religious minorities and judicial reform. During this time, other countries such as Serbia and Croatia have become members of the EU.
Angela Merkel has argued that Turkey should settle for a ‘special relationship’ instead of full membership. The reforms Erdogan unveiled is said to have persuaded Merkel to resume negotiations.