Turkey must change EU perceptions, says new minister

Turkey's new EU minister Volkan Bozkir said the EU should 'look at the right picture'.

Turkey must change EU perceptions, says new minister

World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkey's new European Union minister has said the country first needs to change Europe’s perception of it to move closer to joining the union.

Speaking in a live TV interview on Tuesday, Volkan Bozkir said: "The European Union should look at the right picture about Turkey."

He said EU accession process is more than just opening ‘chapters,’ it is face-to-face meetings that count.

"The EU is different than other organizations like NATO and the UN – you are just involved in activities as a state in those alliances,” he said. “The EU directly affects people's daily lives."

Bozkir, also appointed Turkey's new chief negotiator last month, said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's and EU Council President Herman van Rompuy's visits to Turkey earlier this year “came too late” into their terms of office.

He added: “Often dialogue makes human relations better."

Turkey continues to pursue EU membership and aims to open negotiation chapters 23 and 24, on "judiciary and fundamental rights" and "justice, freedom and security" respectively.

Negotiations began in 2005 and Turkey must comply with 35 chapters setting out reforms needed to become a member. So far, only 14 have been opened while 17 remain blocked and a further four are yet to be discussed.

Once a chapter is opened, it is subject to annual progress reports. Bozkir complained of officials behind the reports "who have not been in Turkey even for once."

Last year, Turkey was criticized for its justice system and media freedom but Turkey's leaders have cited political blocks by member states, such as the Greek Cypriot administration, Greece and France.

Another EU report on Turkey’s progress in 2014 is expected before the end of the year.

Bozkir said his ministry’s aim is to raise Turkey to EU standards. "We are witnessing real passion among our youth about the European Union," he said.

Turning to neighboring Greece, Bozkir commented on Greek criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on Monday.

During his visit, Erdogan urged Greece to "do its duty like Turkey" over the future of the island and said "the window of opportunity would not remain open forever."

A spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, described Erdogan's visit as "illegal" and accused him of being "insistent of aggressive policy."

Turkey wants a two-state solution to the island issue and is the only country that recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, whereas the Greek Cypriot administration is an EU member and recognized internationally.

Bozkir said: "Discussions of legality have no value at all."

The island of Cyprus has remained divided into Greek and Turkish sides since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish peace mission in 1974.

Bozkir has always been an active figure in Turkey's EU membership journey, serving as a permanent ambassador to the EU between 2005 and 2009 and as secretary general for EU affairs between 2009 and 2011.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Eylül 2014, 09:35