Germany informed European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday that it would veto an update of a customs union agreement with Turkey.
According to the Hürriyet Daily News, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there would be no progress with Turkey even in trade relations if the rule of law was not guaranteed in the country.
“I do not see a mandate to expand the customs union under the current circumstances,” Merkel said.
Underlining that good ties between countries are linked to respect for the rule of law, Merkel noted this is not guaranteed right now in Turkey.
Merkel also reiterated Germany’s demand for Turkey to free journalists and rights workers from pretrial detention, including Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel, who was arrested in Turkey in February on charges of disseminating propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence.
“Our demand is very clear: that the people who have been arrested there be released,” she said.
On Aug. 16 the German government asked the European Commission to suspend preparatory work on negotiations with Turkey for modernizing the EU-Turkey customs union because it would send the “wrong signal” to Turkey in light of recent events.
“We will not exert extra efforts to continue the customs union agreement with Turkey,” Merkel said during an interview with four high-profile YouTube stars as part of a campaign for the prime ministerial elections.
The customs union between Turkey and the EU entered into force on Dec. 31, 1995. It covers all industrial goods but does not address agriculture — except processed agricultural products — services or public procurement.
The European Commission had stated on Dec. 21, 2016 that it had asked the European Council for a mandate to launch talks with Turkey to modernize the existing EU-Turkey customs union.
Ankara’s relations with Berlin have been strained since Turkey’s crackdown on opposition groups, including journalists and human rights defenders, after a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The strained relations of the two countries resulted in the withdrawal of German troops from Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase after Turkey refused permission for German lawmakers to visit.