Robert Harneis-TDO- (FRANCE) In an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Turkey is an essential partner for the EU.  He said, ‘Turkey has clearly distanced itself from the European Union in the last few months, with worrying changes of position, which cannot but have consequences, for example, for the project for a customs union.’ However, he continued, ‘But I hope to avoid ruptures because Turkey is an essential partner in the numerous crises that face us both, I am thinking of the migrant problem or the threat of terrorism.’ He added that he was working to achieve this through regular contacts with President Erdogan.

The French President is no doubt speaking in close coordination with Chancellor Merkel who is deeply involved in national elections and limited in what she can say. In an election debate with her opponent Martin Schultz, she called for an end to the negotiations for Turkey’s entry. She will be aware that the new party Alternative fur Deutschland is likely to win seats in the Bundestag for the first time. A YouGov poll of the 6 September showed the AfD as Germany’s third largest party with 11% of the vote. It also showed Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party with a lead of 10% over rivals SPD, the lowest margin since May if this year.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, in a speech to ambassadors described Turkey as distancing itself from the EU with ‘giant steps’. He claimed that President Erdogan was seeking to put all the blame on the Europeans for ending adhesion negotiations. He said ‘the ‘system Erdogan’ is making Turkish adhesion to the EU impossible’.

For his part, the Turkish President called on the EU to ‘speak with courage’. He regretted the duplicity of the European leaders on the subject, calling for ‘The EU to change its approach from now on. Either it keeps its promise and opens to the way to a complete adhesion… or it says that it no longer wants to carry on negotiating.’ He has repeated his demand for electors of Turkish origin not to vote for the enemies of Turkey, in the German parliamentary elections.

In the meantime, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday that “the EU-Turkey migrant agreement continues to work and deliver results.” He said migrant arrivals in Greece from Turkey had dropped 97 percent since the deal in March last year, and that more than 8,800 Syrians in Turkey had now found homes in Europe.

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