Turkey’s EU bid suffers a piercing but not fatal blow

By Fulya Ozerkan ,AFP

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s long-running bid to join the European Union has suffered a tough blow amid an acrimonious dispute over a crackdown on opposition media, but analysts say there still remains hope its candidacy is not yet dead in the water. Recent police raids on media outlets affiliated with tough-talking President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top foe, the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, sparked an angry exchange with Brussels, which said the arrests undermined media freedom. Erdogan showed no fear on cranking up the dispute further, telling the 28-nation bloc to ��mind their own business,�� and ��not to give a democracy lesson to Turkey.�� Meanwhile EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said he did not care if Turkey was admitted, prompting jokes on Twitter questioning the point of his ministry. The rebukes astonished EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who had visited Turkey only this month along with two commissioners just after taking office, in a sign of the new team’s willingness to kick-start Ankara’s bid. ��Turkish-EU relations are not in terminal decline, but going through very rough storms at present,�� Felix Schmidt of German think-tank the Friedrich Ebert Foundation told AFP.

‘More problematic than ever’

A Western diplomat told AFP that while the current rhetoric was severe ��there will always be ups and downs in Turkish-EU ties.��

��If you simply look at the rhetoric, it might be down for now but there will be ups again,�� the diplomat added. Turkey’s efforts to join the EU had already stalled in recent years at several stumbling blocks, including its human rights record and objections from some EU states to the principle of admitting an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Turkey, an associate member of the old European Economic Community since 1963, first sought to become an EU member in 1987 but did not launch formal accession talks until 2005 �X the same time as Croatia, which became EU member in May 2013. Only one new chapter has been opened in Turkish-EU talks since 2010, bringing the number of policy areas under negotiation to 14 out of the 35 that need to be completed.