EU envoy to Turkey resigns after breakdown in relations with Turkish government

Diplomatic ties between Turkey and the EU continue to worsen

File: EU diplomat Hansjoerg Haber, then the head of the observer mission to Georgia, speaks to journalists in Mukhrani in 2008
File: EU diplomat Hansjoerg Haber, then the head of the observer mission to Georgia, speaks to journalists in Mukhrani in 2008

The EU's top envoy to Turkey has resigned after less than a year in the job following a breakdown in relations with the Turkish government.

Hansjoerg Haber had publically criticised the conduct of the Turkish leadership over a landmark deal to tackle the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

His decision to stand down represents yet another milestone in Europe's failure to move towards a solution to prevent the deaths and abuse of those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and north Africa.

It also shows just how far Turkey has to go before it will be accepted into the EU fold.

Mr Haber, an experienced German diplomat who was first assigned to Turkey from 1993 to 1996, had only just returned to the country as an EU ambassador in September 2015.

His decision to step down was confirmed by his office in Ankara, which provided no reason.

But Mr Haber had been highly critical of the way Turkey has implemented - or failed to - the deal to stop refugees making dangerous illegal boat crossings into Greece.

At a meeting with reporters on 13 May, he was quoted as telling Turkish media: "We have a saying 'Start like a Turk and end like a German. But here it is the other way round.'"

Mr Haber's resignation is a bad sign ahead of the scheduled publication of a European Commission report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement.

Due to be released on Wednesday, it is expected to be critical of Ankara for refusing to meet all the terms laid down by Brussels, while also commented on the progress towards visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to parts of the EU.

Turkey's attempts to secure access for its citizens to Europe, and its expressed aim of one day joining the EU as a full member, have featured prominently in the EU referendum debate in Britain.

Yet David Cameron says Turkey has opened just one chapter in 36 required to meet the demands for membership, stating the country is on course to join the bloc in "the year 3,000".

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