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Turkiye criticises EU delay in granting Balkan states candidate status

EU Leaders' Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on 23 June 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]
EU Leaders' Summit held in Brussels, Belgium on 23 June 2022 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Turkiye has questioned the European Union's delay in granting candidacy status to Balkan countries, after the bloc granted that status to Ukraine and Moldova at the EU Summit on Thursday.

A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that the government is "pleased that Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate country status and Georgia was given an EU membership perspective at the Summit. However, it is strange that accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, which are currently candidate countries, have not yet been started."

The ministry stated that also "granting a candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina as soon as possible will benefit the wider European geography, including the Balkans." It stressed that Turkiye "believes that the EU should engage with all candidate countries sincerely and that the accession processes should be advanced on the basis of merit."

The leaders of six Balkan states – Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia – also complained of the comparison in treatment by the EU, while at the same hailing the new status of Ukraine and Moldova.

The two eastern European countries, they said, gained that candidacy status for accession into the bloc before them, despite the Balkan states awaiting the advancement of accession negotiations for many years. Some have been waiting for almost two decades.

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The EU leadership has justified the decision by insisting that Kyiv and Chisinau must be prioritised in their accession processes due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the two candidate's proximity to Moscow's offensive. The EU also says that the Balkan countries still need to enact economic, judicial, and political reforms in order to be granted membership in the bloc.

A statement by the European Council affirmed that the union "expresses its full and unequivocal commitment to the EU membership perspective of the Western Balkans and calls for the acceleration of the accession process."

Turkiye's criticism of the EU's decision and seemingly biased measures comes at a time when Ankara's relations with the bloc are at a low point, with the country's dispute with Greece over its militarisation of Aegean islands and the re-emergence of threats to Turkiye's national security during the past few months. Earlier this week, the European Commission's head stated that Turkiye is growing ever further away from the bloc and its bid to gain membership into it.

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