Turkey needs to take steps to revive EU accession process: Dutch minister

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s EU accession negotiations have come to a standstill, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on a visit to Ankara on Wednesday, and it must address issues including rule of law and human rights to make progress possible.

FILE PHOTO: The new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok speaks to the press upon arrival in The Hague, the Netherlands March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

Turkey and the Netherlands agreed in July to try to improve relations strained by a dispute over campaigning for last year’s referendum which granted President Tayyip Erdogan new powers.

Ankara, now mired in a bitter dispute with the United States which sent its currency plunging to a record low in August, is pushing to mend ties with Europe.

Speaking at a news conference alongside his Turkish counterpart, Blok said they discussed the rule of law, human rights and counter-terrorism, adding that Turkey needs to take steps to make progress in its EU accession negotiations.

“The negotiations have come to a standstill. There are a lot of criteria to be met, especially regarding the rule of law and human rights,” Blok said. “Criteria are there to be met. Steps have to be taken to make progress possible.”

Last week Erdogan said during a visit to Germany that Turkey would rapidly meet the criteria to achieve visa liberalization with the European Union, a move long sought by Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country wanted to revitalize its relations with the bloc and said that Blok’s visit was an opportunity to move on from the “troublesome months” between the two countries.

Relations between Turkey and the EU worsened following a 2016 failed military coup, after which Ankara accused Europe of not supporting it sufficiently and of harboring individuals allegedly involved in the abortive putsch.

Rights groups and European countries have voiced concern that mass arrests as part of a post-coup crackdown worsened Turkey’s record on human rights and press freedom under Erdogan.

Facing an currency crisis aggravated by U.S. sanctions, Turkey has been hoping to mend ties with the bloc and attract more private investments.

Asked if the Netherlands would take steps to help Turkey’s ailing economy, Blok said Turkey faced economic challenges but also offered enormous possibility for growth.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans

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