Germany Says Brexit Deal Could Serve as Model for Turkey, Ukraine

Berlin’s top diplomat says he could not see either Turkey or Ukraine joining the bloc anytime soon, and the EU therefore “needs to consider alternative forms of closer cooperation”
Sigmar Gabriel
Sigmar Gabriel

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel proposed on Tuesday that the European Union’s upcoming Brexit deal with the UK could serve as a template for relations with other non-EU states, namely Turkey and Ukraine.

Gabriel told Germany’s Funke media group: “If we can reach a smart agreement with Great Britain that outlines its relations with Europe after Brexit, then that could serve as a model for other countries,” DW reported.

Britain secured the go-ahead from Brussels to start talks on its future relationship with the EU earlier this month, with London saying it aspires to a closer relationship as a former member than that of any other third country.

Berlin’s top diplomat added that he could not see either Turkey or Ukraine joining the bloc anytime soon, and that the EU therefore “needs to consider alternative forms of closer cooperation.”

An agreement between the EU and Ukraine on a deep and comprehensive free trade area formally came into force in September, aimed at allowing free trade of goods, services and capital, and visa-free travel for people for short stays.

Ukraine’s desire for closer ties with the EU was one of the driving forces behind a popular revolt that toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014.

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Gabriel also suggested that such an approach by Brussels could lead to a “new, closer form of customs union” with Ankara.

Turkey, a candidate for EU membership for decades, already has a customs union with the EU which allows the trade of most goods without tariffs.

Even though the situation in Turkey had demonstrated that the country was still some way away from accession to the EU, Gabriel said, recent gestures by Ankara showed a willingness to improve relations with Brussels. That willingness was shared by Berlin, he added.

“It is a good sign that several detained Germans have been released,” the Social Democratic lawmaker said.

However, Berlin continued to maintain great concern over the well-being of Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German correspondent for German daily Die Welt who has been held in an Istanbul prison without charge since February due to suspected links to terror groups.

“The Turks know how important his fate is to us,” Gabriel said.

According to Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah, Yucel was arrested Feb. 27 for links to RedHack, a group of hackers known for having links to terrorism.

Turkey has also accused Germany of harboring thousands of suspects allegedly involved in the failed coup on July 15, 2016 which left more than 200 people dead, including soldiers and civilians.

Shortly before Christmas, Ankara ordered the surprise release of German pilgrim David Britsch, who had been held in Turkish custody for almost nine months.

A few days earlier, German journalist Mesale Tolu was released from prison in Istanbul. The reporter spent seven months in prison after also being accused of links to a terrorist organization. Though she is out of prison, Tolu is not allowed to leave the country.

Gabriel’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) is preparing for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives on governing together for another four years.

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