The European Council’s assessment of the enlargement of the Union reiterated Turkey’s status as a candidate country and a key partner in many areas of common interest, but criticized Turkey in the political and economic chapters.
The General Affairs Council, composed of EU ministers responsible for European affairs, met in Brussels for the last time for 2023.
During the meeting where enlargement was discussed, the Western Balkan countries, including Turkey, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, as well as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia were evaluated for the first time.
Speaking to the press at the end of the meeting, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi emphasized the need for progress on the rule of law in order to revitalize Turkey’s accession process, and the need to pursue a positive agenda that should lay the foundations for a new start in relations.
“Turkey remains a key partner”
“Turkey remains a candidate country and a key partner in many areas of common interest,” the EU Council said in its conclusions.
Under the Turkey heading, the Council said it was “committed to maintaining an open and frank dialogue, addressing common challenges and cooperating in key areas of common interest such as migration, climate, counter-terrorism and regional issues”.
It noted that the Council took note of the ongoing High Level Dialogues between the EU and Turkey on many of these issues.
The recent developments in relations between Turkey and Greece and the de-escalation of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean were welcomed.
The declaration called for the resumption of negotiations on the Cyprus issue and emphasized that the EU is ready to play a role.
The statement reiterated criticism on democracy, fundamental rights and the judiciary, while on economic criteria, it called on Turkey to continue implementing steps to return to more stability-oriented macroeconomic policies.
Turkey’s constructive role in facilitating Ukraine’s grain exports was mentioned in the statement, which also called for full compliance with the EU’s sanctions policy against Russia.