Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakcı made assessments on Türkiye-EU relations within the scope of 9 May, Europe Day.
Marking 9 May Europe Day, Kaymakcı, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Türkiye is an integral part of European politics, security and defense. Türkiye has been celebrating May 9 Europe Day within the context of the EU membership process and also as a founding member of the Council of Europe.
He emphasized that the publication of the Schuman Declaration on May 9, 1950, was one of the important turning points in European history and laid the foundations of today's EU.
"The Schuman Declaration is a peace project. It is a project of integration, sharing and creating a common future. Therefore, as a European country, Türkiye is also a country affected by the Schuman Declaration. Today, we are already a candidate country for the EU. As a candidate country, we celebrate May 9 Europe Day in our country as well," Kaymakcı said.
Referring to the recent surveys conducted by the Directorate for EU Affairs, the deputy minister underlined the fact that the support for Türkiye's EU membership process is very high among the Turkish people. "At least 80% of Turkish people want Türkiye's EU membership and support this process. Again, at least 60-65% of Turkish people believe that Türkiye can become a member of the EU and that it can do its part in terms of membership," he noted.
Stressing the importance of these statistics, he added: "Yes, we have some reactive behaviors due to the problems in Türkiye-EU relations and some double standards, but the important thing here is that Türkiye sees that it can protect its sovereignty and interests at the highest level with EU membership. Today we live on the continent of Europe. We are in European geography, we are in European politics, we are in European sports. We are part of European politics, security and defense. In this picture, the place where Türkiye is the most reliable, most effective, most dominant and able to protect its interests at the highest level will be with the EU."
Kaymakcı stated that there has been a certain stagnation in Türkiye-EU relations in the last three years. According to him, the most important reason for this has been the unilateral provocative steps taken by the Greek Cypriot administration around the island of Cyprus and the Navtex declarations by Greece to "make a fait accompli" in the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Aegean Sea. He also stated that some EU countries have preferred to be a party to this tension.
"First of all, we see that the EU side has taken some steps toward a positive agenda after a better understanding of what Türkiye wants to do in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean and after the tension subsided, but these steps do not satisfy us," he said.
"As Türkiye, we expect all aspects of the March 18 agreement, namely six aspects, to revive the accession negotiations, to start the customs union update negotiations, to hold high-level dialogue meetings and Türkiye-EU summits, to realize Türkiye-EU terrorism cooperation with more concrete steps, to make progress in the visa liberalization dialogue, and also more sincere cooperation on migration. In other words, we want development, progress and closer cooperation in these areas that make up the six different dimensions of March 18," he added.
In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and find a solution for the influx of migrants heading to EU countries. According to the deal, Türkiye was promised a total of 6 billion euros ($7.30 billion) in financial aid. It was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian migrants. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also part of the agreement. In addition, the EU-Türkiye Customs Union was to be updated. In exchange for these promises, Türkiye took responsibility for discouraging migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian migrants living in Türkiye. Despite significant developments controlling migration traffic, Türkiye has frequently noted that the EU has not fully delivered on its commitments stated in the deal and criticized the international community for its indifference to the migrant crisis.
Impact of Ukraine war
Saying that the EU has taken some "weak steps" toward a positive agenda in relations in the last year, Kaymakcı said: "However, I think recently, especially due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, EU countries have once again seen the importance of Türkiye in different issues and fields for the EU. I see that Türkiye's weight is felt much stronger, especially in four areas."
Kaymakcı stated that the first of these areas is security and defense and said: "The war in Ukraine could have been easily prevented if Türkiye had become a member of the EU because deterrence is an important issue for western Europe and the West."
Pointing out that these developments have made the view toward Türkiye positive, Kaymakcı said that he hoped that it would pave the way for Türkiye's inclusion in the EU's common security and defense operations policy.
Emphasizing that the need for Türkiye has increased in the field of energy security, Kaymakcı reiterated that one of the four main supply energy lines of the EU is the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) passing through Türkiye. Pointing out that the issue of migration has reached a critical point, Kaymakcı said that in addition to Syrians and other migrants in Türkiye, over 5 million Ukrainians are also in the position of migrants in European countries, and that Türkiye and the EU have a migration burden of approximately 10 million people that directly concern European countries.
"Therefore, Türkiye's importance and weight in migration management has once again been revealed," he said.
Noting that the effects of the Ukraine-Russia war were added to the negative economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, Kaymakcı said: "We need an economic tool to get out of this process. There is a very important tool that can be used here between Türkiye and the EU. That is updating the customs union between Türkiye and the EU."
Expressing that the commercial, economic and investment relationship between Türkiye and the EU is extremely high, Kaymakcı said, "The trade volume that the Türkiye-EU Customs Union has created so far is 2.3 trillion euros ($2.42 trillion) in total. This is of course a very large figure. With the updated customs union, we can easily double our annual trade volume in a very short time."
Türkiye is the only non-EU country with a customs union agreement with the bloc. The deal was struck in 1995. In its Dec. 21, 2016, assessment, the European Commission proposed revamping the deal. The current customs union agreement only covers a limited range of industrial products and excludes agriculture, public procurement, e-commerce and services. Türkiye says that an expanded customs union deal with its largest market, Europe, would be in the best interest of both sides.
Noting that Türkiye's goal is to revive the accession negotiations, Kaymakcı said: "As the EU strengthens Türkiye's membership perspective and treats Türkiye more fairly, I am sure that the reform efforts in Türkiye will accelerate, including various strategies such as the judicial reform strategy, the human rights action plan, etc. We will be able to put it into practice more quickly and speed up the reform process in many areas. Every step that will strengthen Türkiye's position on the Copenhagen political criteria will be very beneficial for us in Türkiye in terms of the economy as well."
Türkiye is the country that can contribute the most to the peace, stability, economy, security, defense and energy security of Europe, Kaymakcı said adding: "We hope Türkiye's EU membership process will be seen from this perspective and this process will be accelerated. Türkiye's membership in the EU will be a great gain not only for Türkiye or the EU but also for the world and third countries. That's why we celebrate Europe Day with enthusiasm and wish Türkiye's EU membership process to accelerate."
Türkiye has a long history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1964, which is regarded as a first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Türkiye had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. Türkiye then had to wait another six years for negotiations to begin in 2005, a uniquely long process compared to other candidates. Since then, the process seems to have stalled.
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