By Dilara Hamit
ANKARA (AA) - The European Union on Tuesday emphasized its commitment to maintaining an open and frank dialogue with Turkey, including addressing common challenges and cooperating in essential areas of joint interest such as migration, public health, climate, counter-terrorism and regional issues.
EU affairs ministers of EU member states met in Brussels for the last General Affairs Council meeting of the year. They made preparations for the EU Leaders' Summit to be held on Dec. 16, discussed the EU's 2022 agenda items and evaluated the latest situation regarding the union's enlargement.
"The Council takes note of the recent resumption of High Level Dialogues between the EU and Turkey on several of these issues, as well as the ratification by Turkey of the Paris Agreement on climate change," a statement said after the meeting.
The statement also highlighted that it commends Turkey's continued significant efforts in hosting and addressing the needs of almost 4 million refugees.
On the other hand, it noted concerns in the areas of democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights, including freedom of expression as well as the "systemic lack of independence of the judiciary."
"A number of restrictive measures taken during the state of emergency have been integrated into law and have a profound negative impact on people in Turkey. Civil society and its organizations operate under continuous pressure in an increasingly challenging environment. The systemic lack of independence and undue pressure on the judiciary cannot be condoned, nor can the on- going restrictions, detentions, imprisonments, and other measures targeting journalists, academics, members of political parties, including parliamentarians, lawyers, human rights defenders, social media users, and others exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms," the statement said.
The statement also said that Turkey’s foreign policy has been colliding with the EU’s priorities under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including regarding Libya and Operation IRINI. It added that the Council expects Turkey and all actors to contribute positively to the resolution of regional crises.
"The Council notes with regret that Turkey continues to move further away from the European Union and recalls its previous conclusion which noted that Turkey's accession negotiations therefore effectively have come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing," it said.