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EU ambassador to Turkey steps down

Turkey ambassador

Hansjoerg Haber, the European Union's ambassador to Turkey, has resigned from his position after one of the country's senior officials accused him of disrespectful comments regarding the country's ability to meet EU criteria for visa-liberalisation.

According to Russia Today, Mr Haber, a German national, upset Turkish officials last month when he told a press conference on May 13th: “We have a proverb: ‘To start like a Turk and end like a German,’ but it has been just the opposite here. It started like a German and is being finished like a Turk."

Those comments were mainly used to demonstrate what Haber viewed as a lacklustre approach from the Turkish government towards fulfilling the 72 requirements listed by the EU as conditions for a visa-free regime that Turks will need in order to enter the Schengen zone.

The original saying is thought to allude to the controversial idea that Turkish people embark on new tasks with strong enthusiasm, but rarely have the strength to see it through, in contrast to the stereotypes of Germans being ultra focused and efficient.

Commenting on the decision to replace Haber, Turkey’s EU affairs minister Omer Celik told TRT television: “The comments made by the ambassador in question violated this fundamental rule and the necessary reaction was made."

He also stressed that the envoy’s work “no longer had a function or meaning” before urging diplomats to “respect national values, which include the common value of the office of the presidency.”

The comments from Haber have exacerbated an already heated debate over a controversial EU-Turkey migrant deal, which is seen by many figures within the EU as crucial in helping to stem the number of refugees arriving on the continent, many of whom are coming from Turkey.

Talks have already been complicated by Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly hinted that he may decide to pull out of the agreement if visa-free access is not given to Turkish citizens by July 1st.

The departure of Haber will have complicated the landscape of those talks even further, although Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for the European Commission has insisted a successor "will be appointed swiftly".

She added: "We as the European Union, continue to work with Turkey, Turkey is a key partner; it’s a candidate country. We have re-energised our relationship."