Turkey wants full EU membership, says Minister Çelik
BRUSSELS - Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s European Union Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has reiterated that his country wants to become a full member of the European Union and will not be open to any other offer apart from that.
Speaking at the 36th Turkey-EU Joint Advisory Committee in Brussels on July 18, Ömer Çelik said Turkey’s “strategic aim” in the EU accession talks is to gain full membership.
“The EU should support Turkey during this difficult period in the region by understanding the reasons for the fight against terrorism, by providing visa liberalization and especially by accelerating the accession process,” Çelik said.
Turkey’s accession talks began in 2005. Negotiations hit a stalemate in 2007 because of Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue. The German and French governments had also opposed the country’s full EU membership.
To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU over 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.
Çelik said Turkey was ready to open EU chapters 23 and 24 on judiciary and fundamental rights as well as justice and freedoms.
He said it was a “double standard” to criticize Turkey without opening these EU chapters.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament approved a 2016 commission report on Turkey, which called on EU member states to suspend Turkey’s long-running accession talks if constitutional changes endorsed in an April 16 referendum went ahead “unchanged.”
The vote was non-binding in terms of EU decision-making, as the approved version of the report will be sent back to the European Commission to agree on the changes made by the parliament.
Speaking to reporters later in the day at the Turkey’s EU permanent representation in Brussels, Çelik praised the decision to observe a one-minute silence at the beginning of the committee meeting to mark the one-year anniversary of last year’s failed coup.
“Since the July 15 coup attempt, I have attended many meetings under the framework of the European Union. This is the first time a moment of silence has been observed,” he said.
Çelik said the Cyprus issue was also discussed during the meeting.
“Turkey is certainly on the side of the solution. Although the Turkish side has shown a positive approach [during the talks in Switzerland], our latest chance to arrive at a solution has been missed.”
The minister said Turkey would support an equal and sovereign state on the island.
“A proposal that calls for Turkish troops to be removed from the island at the beginning of negotiations is out of the question,” he said.
The latest attempt to reunite the island failed earlier this month.
The Eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the Turks on the island and Ankara’s intervention as a guarantor power.
Celik said he expected Turkey-EU relations to intensify in the coming days.
“Next week, we will have a high-level dialogue here. We will come with our foreign minister,” he said, adding they would meet with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
He added that September and October would see meetings linked to energy and economy.
“Our preparation for a summit is ongoing. We have not yet set a date for the summit,” he added.
The Turkish minister also described the Turkey-EU deal on refugees, signed last year in March, as “the only success story” of the bloc.
The readmission deal allows for the return of “irregular migrants” to Turkey from Greece in exchange for Syrian refugees to be relocated within the EU.
In return, the EU promised Turkey an acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets 72 requirements set by the EU.
The deal includes 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in an aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country.
Çelik said although Turkey had been sticking to the agreement, the EU had been violating it in a number of ways, such as not opening chapters of Turkey’s accession talks, not realizing visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and not sending the aid package.