August 24, 2016 / 8:11 AM / 3 years ago

EU enlargement chief: Turkey should address 'open question' on accession

VIENNA (Reuters) - EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has called on Turkey to address the “open question” of whether it was willing to meet the criteria to join the European Union since the uncertainty was straining its relations with the bloc.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (C) chairs a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (13th L) and ministers at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 15, 2016. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

In an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse published on Wednesday, Hahn said the arrests in Turkey of thousands of people after a coup attempt in early July had irked some EU members.

“The situation as it is today in Turkey, is not such as it would contribute to our need for stability, “ he told the paper.

Developments after the coup “caused considerable irritation in large parts of Europe regarding the extent and speed of the wave of arrests,” he said.

Hahn said he was nevertheless against halting accession talks with Turkey, a measure some politicians, including Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, have called for.

Faced with Europe’s criticism, Turkey has accused the EU of being fueled by anti-Turkish sentiment and hostility to President Tayyip Erdogan, saying the bloc was making grave mistakes in its response to the coup.

“If you want to join (the EU) you have to fulfil the criteria. The rules are not negotiable,” Hahn told the paper.

“Turkey should soon make clear, whether it can and wants to accept those conditions. This open question puts a strain on the relations (with the EU),” Hahn said. He added that he was in favor of continuing the accession talks.

Asked about Turkey’s threats to open its borders and let migrants transit to Europe - which would end a migration deal that has helped stem a major influx of people to Greece by sea - - Hahn said that disarming of words and emotions was needed.

“I do not think that Turkey can or wants to do without the EU’s financial support in the migrant crisis.”

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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