Juncker dismisses Turkey’s accession to the European Union soon and welcomes Western Balkan countries

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday he saw no chance for Turkey joining the European Union “for the foreseeable future” but spoke with greater optimism about six Western Balkan countries seeking membership of the bloc.

EU criticism of Turkey’s decades-long pursuit of membership has increased after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a major campaign against his critics, including journalists and academics, following a coup attempt in 2016.

“Turkey has come a long way in moving away from the European Union some time ago,” Juncker said in his annual speech on the EU status.

“The rule of law, justice and fundamental rights should be a top priority for candidates to join, thus excluding Turkey’s accession to the European Union in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Juncker referred to a war of words between Berlin and Ankara in which Erdoğan accused Germany of using “Nazi-like tactics” which prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for an end to Turkey’s accession talks, although Ankara is an important NATO partner.

“Journalists have their place in the press, not in prisons, their place is where freedom of expression prevails … stop insulting member states by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis,” Yonker said.

Ending Turkey’s accession negotiations formally requires unanimity from all EU states, which is not available, but majority support may be sufficient to suspend such negotiations.

EU leaders will discuss Turkey at a Brussels summit in October, but no formal decision will be made before next spring.

Unker addressed the renewed dialogue in the Balkans where Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Kosovo want to join the European Union one day.

“If we want more stability in our region, we should devote a large part of the expansion to the Western Balkans,” he said.
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