Turkey’s minister of European Union affairs Volkan Bozkir revealed on Thursday that Brussels has agreed to open a new chapter in stalled membership talks with his country by mid-December, following pledges made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU ministers in recent weeks.
“The decision to open the Chapter 17 by mid-December has been taken,” Volkan Bozkir said today, adding: “Inshallah (Allah willing), we will open Chapter 17 on December 14 or 15 in Brussels.
The EU’s 28 leaders are expected to host Turkey for an extraordinary summit on Sunday to improve ties and help tackle the unrelenting migrant crisis.
Turkey first sought EU membership in 1987 but its bid has made poor progress, with issues such as fundamental freedoms and the future of Cyprus proving to be major obstacles.
Out of 35 “policy chapters” which all EU candidate countries must successfully negotiate prior to membership only 13 have been opened and only one has been successfully closed so far.
Bozkır added the EU and Turkey would start working together to open five to six more chapters in 2016.
EU leaders are facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II and are urgently seeking to secure the help of Ankara in curbing the flow of migrants into the European Union from Turkey — which is giving sanctuary to 2.2 million Syrian refugees.
Turkey has agreed in principle to an EU refugee action plan, which is expected to be finalised on Sunday.
In return for its help, Turkey has demanded the EU provide three billion euros ($3.3 billion) a year in funding and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals as well as a resumption of negotiations on its long-stalled application to join the bloc.
Additional reporting by AFP