Erdoğan vows visa deal would boost Turkey-EU ties
ANKARAThe prospective deal to liberalize visa requirements for Turks visiting European Union member countries should accelerate Turkey’s accession process and full EU membership remains Ankara’s strategic goal, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, vowing Ankara’s commitment to resume cooperation with the 28-member bloc.
“Displaying a determined and principled stance in the face of the migration crisis stemming from Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones is of immense importance. On behalf of the international community, Turkey has undertaken responsibility in the face of these challenges and fulfilled its humanitarian duties from the very beginning,” Erdoğan said in a written message released on May 9 to mark Europe Day.
“We believe that accession to the EU, which is a strategic goal for Turkey, will help in the successful struggle against these challenges and also be a source of stability and inspiration for the region,” he added.
“I hope visa liberalization, which has been agreed upon, will help relieve some of the weariness in Turkey caused by being kept waiting at the EU’s door for over 50 years and accelerate Turkey’s accession process,” Erdoğan said.
The message marked an apparent attempt to clarify Ankara’s position on the deal, days after the president vowed that it would not make any changes to its terrorism laws as part of the deal with the EU to curb migration. “The EU says, ‘you will change the anti-terror law in return for visas’ ... Pardon me, but we are going our way and you can go yours,” Erdoğan had said in a blunt message to the EU on May 6.
The EU has asked member states to grant visa-free travel to Turks in return for Ankara stopping migrants from reaching Europe, but said Turkey still had to change some legislation, including bringing its terrorism laws in line with EU standards.
In his May 9 message, Erdoğan criticized this position, saying he believes “the EU should take a more determined stance in the fight against terrorism.”
Hours before Erdoğan’s Europe Day message was released, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanu Bilgiç was asked whether the deal with the EU on readmission and visa liberalization was still on the table and whether it could be suspended if the EU side insists on fulfillment of amendments to the anti-terror law, which is one of the final five criteria that Ankara needs to fulfill in order to obtain the visa waiver.
“Our president has used very clear expressions on visa liberalization with the EU,” Bilgiç said.
“The required policies, within the framework of statements by our president, as the head of the state, will be developed and implemented,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek marked Europe Day with a message posted to his official Twitter account.
“Happy #EuropeDay2016. Thank you EU for being the engine of change for a more peaceful, democratic, stable, & prosperous world,” Şimşek said.
Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkır also underlined the importance of the EU accession process for the country.
“As expressed by our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the EU accession process is the most significant modernization project after the proclamation of the Republic,” Bozkır said.
“A new paradigm in Turkey-EU relations, along with the fact that common challenges such as terrorism and irregular migration cannot be overcome without Turkey, has been further consolidated by a series of initiatives, launched by President Erdoğan’s visit to Brussels on Oct. 5-6 2015, and has continued with the Turkey-EU Summits of Nov. 29 2015, March 7 and March 18, 2016 and finally, the European Commission’s proposal of May 4, 2016 to lift the Schengen visa applied to our citizens,” he added.