Turkey, France pledge better ties with key deals
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met French President Emmanuel Macron on Jan. 5 during the former’s trip to Europe seeking to warm up ties with the EU, which have been strained since Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt.
Trade deals put their mark on the first official bilateral meeting of the two leaders, with Macron saying he discussed Ankara’s ongoing cooperation with Japan for the construction of Turkey’s second nuclear plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop and potential French participation.
The two leaders also confirmed that Airbus and Turkish Airlines have signed a deal for purchase of 25 jets.
“We aim to achieve 20 billion euro trade volume with France. We can achieve it,” Erdoğan said.
On Turkey’s accession process to the European Union, Macron underlined Turkey’s continued engagement with the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights. However, Macron was careful to avoid making encouraging statements on Turkey’s prospected membership to the European Union, saying “a new formulation needs to be created” to re-define Ankara-Brussels ties.
“The accession process has halted,” he said, leaving little room for hopes that it will revive soon as no new negotiation chapter can be opened. However, he hailed EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s efforts to engage with Turkey on all these issues.
For his part, Erdoğan said not opening new chapters in the membership process is “exhausting Turkey.”
“Turkey has been unfortunately made to wait at the door of the EU for the last 54 years. There is no other country like Turkey in the EU and the EU does not give any reason to us [for not accepting Turkey],” he added.
Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community, a precursor to the EU, in 1987.
It became eligible for EU membership in 1997 and accession talks began in 2005. To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.
“We cannot continuously ask the EU 'please take us, too' now,” Erdoğan said.
The French president stressed “joint problems” that the two countries have been facing, particularly terrorism.
“We are struggling against the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK. We are taking all necessary actions to destroy the financial resources of the PKK in France,” Macron said, vowing that anti-terror cooperation will continue through “fortified cooperation.”
An international anti-terror summit with a special focus on curbing terrorism’s financial resources will be held in France in April and Turkey will also be present at that summit, he added.
Regional issues like ongoing efforts to find a political settlement to Syrian civil war and the U.S. move to recognize Jerusalem as the “undivided” capital of Israel were also discussed by the two presidents, Macron said, noting that he has “observed clearly that we share joint positions on many of these issues.”
'Gardeners of terrorism'
Macron also voiced concerns about the fate of academics and journalists detained in Turkey. The French president said he had raised with Erdoğan the cases of specific journalists and members of Galatasaray University who had been detained, but declined to give details.
Erdoğan, meanwhile, said terrorism “does not create itself” and claimed that “columnists and opinion leaders are the gardeners of terrorism,” calling for a joint struggle.
In an interview with French broadcaster LCI ahead of his visit, Erdoğan said the visit aimed to improve bilateral relations, with Turkey and France “taking important steps” on the economy and politics.
“France and Turkey have many important steps to take politically, strategically and economically,” he said, noting that his relationship with Macron had made “a good start.”
The Turkish president made the remarks during his meeting with members of the Movement of the Enterprises of France, a Paris-based federation.
"There is no obstacle in front of you to benefit from investment incentives," Erdoğan said, adding that foreign investors enjoy same rights as Turkish businessmen in Turkey.
Erdoğan said that he believes more French-financed companies can be established in Turkey as the number currently totals around 1,500 firms.
According to the deal, companies would be given a joint guarantee and insurance to a project of the firms, which are based in Turkey and France, in third countries, and exports of goods and services.
Turk Eximbank said in a statement the deal also aims to increase access of Turkish firms to additional funding sources and to make them more competitive.