Ankara and Zagreb look to be heading in opposite directions as the EU doles out advice to former while welcoming the latter to the club
Two countries intent on entering the European Union, Croatia and Turkey received contrasting news Dec. 9 from the 27-nation organization. As Zagreb signed its accession treaty with the bloc, Turkey received only mild criticism and advice from the EU despite its half-century wait at the union’s door.
The EU council’s draft conclusion circulated Dec. 9 is likely to disappoint the Turkish government as it includes criticisms on issues including Cyprus and press freedom. Turkey’s accession process is at a standstill despite a robust economic performance that shines compared to many EU countries that have been struggling with a crippling debt crisis. Croatia is set to join the bloc July 1, 2013.
Croatia will be an “active observer” in all EU forums until it becomes a full member 18 months from now, according to EU president Herman Van Rompuy.
Having applied for EU membership in 2003, Croatia became a candidate in early 2004 whereas Turkey first applied to the union back in 1959 when it was called The European Economic Community (EEC). “Today is a historic day for Croatia and the EU. Croatia is set to become the 28th state of the union,” the Associated Press quoted Van Rompuy as saying at the Dec. 9 signing ceremony in Brussels.
“We are finally crossing the threshold of our European home,” said President Ivo Josipovic. Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış congratulated Croatia on its membership, but said the EU council applied double standards, “revealing that Turkey and Croatia are not negotiating in equal conditions.” “We wished for Turkey to be in a negotiating process like Croatia, in which the rules do not change in the middle of the game,” said Bağış while still promising to continue the democratization process in Turkey. Meanwhile, Serbia’s recent attempts to ease the tension caused by the minority Serbs in northern Kosovo proved to be unsatisfactory for the EU as the country’s expectations of attaining official candidacy status failed. Van Rompuy said EU leaders decided to postpone making Serbia a candidate for the bloc until their next summit. Van Rompuy urged Belgrade to normalize relations with its former province of Kosovo. The EU council has criticized Turkey on its relations with Greek Cyprus and the state of press freedoms while promising to give full support in the country’s fight against terrorism, according to the draft report. “The Council regrets Turkey’s statements to freeze its relations with the EU Presidency during the second half of 2012 [when Greek Cyprus takes over the rotated head of EU],” said the text.
The EU called on Turkey to improve freedom of expression “especially on the freedom of the media where the large number of legal cases are launched against writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, and frequent website bans all raise serious concerns that need to be addressed.” The EU expressed its full solidarity with Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while adding that Brussels sees it as a terrorist organization. The PKK is listed as a terrorist by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.
BRUSSELS / ISTANBUL