The European Council, the EU organ comprised of heads of member states who give strategic direction to the European integration project, recently signaled that it will cut its pre-accession funds for Turkey.
In a written statement on Oct. 20, European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU was reflecting “on whether to cut and re-orient pre-accession funds” to Ankara. The Polish statesman pointed out that the European club wanted “to keep the door open to Ankara, but the current reality … is making this difficult,” referring to the deterioration of the rule of law and democratic standards in Turkey. Tusk also advised Ankara “to respect all Member States in its relations with the EU, including when it comes to the implementation of the existing Customs Union agreement,” in reference to Turkey’s refusal to extend its 1995 customs union with the EU to the Greek Cypriot-ruled Republic of Cyprus.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, the most powerful member of the EU, clarified that the council had asked the European Commission, the EU’s civil service arm, “to reduce [Turkey’s] pre-accession aid in a responsible way.” The figure in question is 4.5 billion euros (about $5.28 billion) covering the period of 2014-2020.
Like Tusk, Merkel maintained a civil tone and expressed concern that Turkey was “moving away step by step from something we consider as preconditions for accession,” but added that the EU would continue to pay Turkey to look after Syrian refugees. The German chancellor also hinted that some EU member states would like to “break [accession] negotiations immediately” and that there was “general skepticism” toward Turkish membership in the EU. The influential German leader offered to “not burn bridges” with Ankara and asked the two sides to “re-engage” and perhaps discuss a “special partnership” other than full Turkish membership.
Turkey first signed an association agreement with the European club in 1963 and became a candidate for full membership in 1999.