Turkey-EU ties passing through 'difficult phase': FM

Speaking to pan-Arab press, Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu calls for ‘positive steps’ to overcome confidence crisis with Europe

Turkey-EU ties passing through 'difficult phase': FM

World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkey’s relations with Europe have been passing through a difficult phase due to European positions articulated in the run-up to Sunday’s referendum and the aftermath of last year’s July 15 coup attempt, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Cavusoglu made the assertions in a Sunday interview with pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, in which he addressed the latest developments in the Turkish political arena. 

“Our relations are going through a difficult phase, as the attitude of the EU and some European countries has been a great disappointment,” he said.

“Instead of receiving solidarity and support, Turkey has faced unfair criticism concerning measures it took in the aftermath of the aborted coup,” he said. 

“Some European countries have spared no effort in presenting difficulties that would keep Turkish ministers and deputies from meeting with their own citizens, while the PKK and affiliated groups are permitted to demonstrate and display their symbols freely,” Cavusoglu asserted.

He added: “This is a clear example of double standards.”

“It is also disappointing for us to see that Turkey very often becomes an issue in domestic politics of some European countries, particularly during election campaigns,” he went on. “Issues related to Turkey appear in some European media on a daily basis and predominantly from a very negative point of view.”

“Political obstacles in the way of our EU accession process are another factor, which causes difficulties in European-Turkish relations,” the foreign minister said. “EU membership remains a priority for us.” 

“There is a loss of trust towards the EU in Turkey, stemming from the EU’s latest attitude,” Cavusoglu posited. “But we are still expecting positive concrete steps to overcome the confidence crisis.”

“Within this framework, we expect the blockages to be lifted, visa liberalization to be granted and all other commitments that the EU has made to be met,” he said. “Yet despite these difficulties, possibilities do exist to put our relations back on a positive track.”

Cavusoglu went on to confirm that Turkey would “certainly reciprocate if it is met with good intentions, as well as a positive and constructive approach by the European partners and the EU”.

He also said that further improvement of the Customs Union presented a “vital opportunity” to advancing Turkey-EU relations.

“This process will be in the interest of both sides and should not be blocked by political hindrances and shortsighted goals of domestic politics,” he said.

“The EU is now in a process of self-review and integration of cultures and civilizations,” he added. “This process can also be utilized for self-criticism and reform with a view to becoming a stronger entity in world politics.”

Turkey, the foreign minister asserted, “is ready to contribute to this process as a reliable partner”. 

As for last year’s immigration deal with Europe, Cavusoglu said: “The March 18 agreement, which has been a success story in the fight against irregular migration, works as a result of Turkey’s tremendous efforts.”

“Among other things,” he said, “visa liberalization for Turkish citizens was one of the commitments to be addressed by the EU in 2016.”

“We’ve been undergoing the visa liberalization process since 2013 and have fulfilled almost all conditional benchmarks,” he added. “This was acknowledged by the European Commission in its report dated May 2016.”

“However,” he went on to note, “we see no will on the EU’s side to move forward on this issue; this is also the case with other commitments it made.”

“We have prepared a working plan for the preparations to be made for the remaining benchmarks,” Cavusoglu went on. “We will present this plan to the EU, which will in turn constitute Turkey’s final proposal in order to complete the visa liberalization process.” 

“If the EU does not give a green light on this issue, we will be obliged to review the heavy burden we assumed in the Aegean Sea,” he stressed. 

According to a 2016 Turkey-EU deal aimed at preventing mass migration to Europe, Turkey is to readmit all undocumented immigrants who entered the Greek islands from Turkey.

A total of 926 such migrants have so far been returned to Turkey under the readmission deal.

With regard to Sunday’s referendum in Turkey and its impact on Turkish foreign policy, Cavusoglu asserted: “The referendum is not about Turkish foreign policy. Turkey is an active member of NATO, the G-20, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and almost all of the European institutions and adopts a multi-dimensional foreign policy.”

“Turkey’s enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy addresses global -- as well as regional -- issues in a dynamic and principled manner,” he said.

“Amid many difficulties arising from conditions in neighboring states, Turkey continues to play a positive role,” Cavusoglu added. “We uphold our international obligations and the rule of law. We ask our partners to do the same.”

“Therefore, whatever the result of the referendum, Turkey will remain a bulwark of stability, peace and prosperity at home and in the world,” he said.

In Sunday’s poll, a majority of voters voted in favor of 18 constitutional amendments that will, among other things, see Turkey switch from a parliamentary to a presidential system.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Nisan 2017, 17:38
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