Ankara wants to be in EU family photos

Ankara wants to be in EU family photos

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Ankara wants to be in EU family photos

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (C) says he expressed to a visiting EU mission Turkey’s expectation for invitations to EU foreign ministers’ meetings and unofficial EU ministers’ meetings. AA Photo

Ankara has called on the EU to “make visible” the dialogue between Ankara and Brussels, by inviting Turkish leaders to EU meetings and taking them into EU family photographs.

The union should “find practical formulas to invite Turkish leaders to EU meetings to take part in family photos of the union in a way visible to the public,” Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said on Dec. 8.

The call came at a joint press conference with visiting Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner Responsible for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations; and Christos Stylianides, the EU Commissioner Responsible for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.

The high-ranking EU delegation also had talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

“We proposed new proposals to move our ties further. In this framework, we expressed our expectation for invitations to EU foreign ministers’ meetings, unofficial EU ministers’ meetings, and meetings on external affairs. We also asked for summits to be held with other ‘third countries,’” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, again repeating Turkey’s expectation to be involved in the EU’s ongoing and upcoming free trade negotiations with third parties.

Ankara also expressed the importance of Greek Cyprus, “which left the negotiation table for artificial reasons,” returning to talks with the Turkish Cypriots, Çavuşoğlu noted.

Turkey doesn’t aim to spend all its efforts merely on removing negative prejudices about the country, stressed EU Minister Bozkır. “Steps that will be taken on packages about human rights and freedom of expression will themselves remove negative impressions,” he added.

The visit marks the first time ever that three commissioners have visited Turkey, High Representative Mogherini said, adding that dialogue between the two would accelerate with further mutual visits.

“We decided to visit so early in our mandate in order to meet the good steps new Turkish government decided to make in the EU accession process,” she said, adding that the EU wanted to give a clear a sign of “full commitment to say the framework of our strategic relations must remain the EU accession process.”

Mogherini also stressed that Turkey and the EU should work closely on challenges in the region that both are facing, noting that Turkey could play an important role for a solution to regional challenges, such as in Syria.

“If we manage to match the role that Turkey can play in the region with the role that the EU has been playing in the region, it will likely advance a political solution of the crisis in Syria,” she noted.

Commissioner Hahn said he was hopeful about the opening of one or more chapters in the next EU term presidency, but emphasized the importance of reforms on the part of Turkey.

“We cannot ignore the need to have further reforms in the areas of the rule of law and fundamental rights,” Hahn said, while adding that the Commission would do its best to accelerate the negotiation process.

Asked about the EU’s expectations from Turkey on cooperation for preventing crossings of foreign fighters through Turkey into Syria to join ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levent (ISIL), Mogherini said they discussed the issue in order to achieve “good coordination with a strategy to stop the flow in both directions.”

She cited positive recent developments in intelligence sharing and coordination, and also emphasized the importance of prevention efforts with “cultural work, particularly with Muslim communities.”