Despite Turkey's previous refusals, EU commissioner suggests 'strategic partnership'

Although Turkey has repeatedly refused to renounce its determined goal of full membership, European Union officials continue to offer alternatives to the country's relations with the union, particularly suggesting a so-called "strategic partnership."

The latest offer came from the European Union's commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn. Hahn said yesterday that holding on to accession talks, which have been running since 2005, has been blocking the way for what Hahn called "a realistic, strategic partnership."

Calling for accession talks with Turkey to officially end, Hahn told Germany's Die Welt, "In the long term, it would be more honest for Turkey and the EU to take a new path and end accession talks."

Turkey's membership process to the European Union is a political one, the country's Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Monday. "Turkey's stance has been clear. The membership process to the EU is a political one, rather than being a technical process," Oktay said at Anadolu Agency's Editors' Desk, adding: "Turkey expressed its intentions 54 years ago and continues to do so. There is no change in the politics of Turkey."

During its long journey to join the EU, which started in 1963 with the Ankara Agreement, Turkey has been always open to cooperation, doing its part despite the recent deterioration in talks. Yet, Turkey has been waiting for membership for decades as the EU keeps delaying the process.

Hahn stressed, however, that it would be up to EU members to decide what course to take. Up until now, there has been no indication that the majority of EU member states would support an official end to the negotiations.

EU members have noted that the negotiations have come to a de facto standstill and pointed out their concerns over claims of massive regression in terms of the rule of law, citizens' rights and press freedom in Turkey.

Hahn has been arguing for some time that close cooperation with Turkey should be maintained and a realistic form of the relationship needs to be defined that takes the interests of both sides and the realistic options of Turkey into consideration.

Previously, French President Emmanuel Macron said there is need to build a strategic partnership with Turkey instead of granting EU membership.

As a response to Macron's remarks, Turkey said the French leader's remarks demonstrated a lack of understanding and that Turkey has done its part in securing the security of Europe.

"We deplore some of Macron's remarks about our country and the EU membership process," Hami Aksoy, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a statement on Aug. 28, refusing Macron's offer.

While refusing anything other than full membership, Ankara also expects the EU to be clear on the matter, emphasizing that the decades-long process has put a strain on Turkey.

Consequently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously suggested Turkey have a national popular referendum on the ceaseless European Union accession process, pointing out the union's apparent procrastination.

Criticizing the European Union's policies and Turkey's never-ending accession process, Erdoğan said on Oct. 4: "Countries that applied at the same time or after Turkey became members of the EU before us. If you are not going to let Turkey in, just let us know so that we don't tire ourselves anymore. Apparently, they are not tired of tiring us."

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