EU expansion without Turkey grave mistake: Erdoğan
VARNA – Anadolu Agency
“It would be a grave mistake for Europe, which claims to be a global force, to push Turkey out of its expansion policy,” Erdoğan said during a joint news conference at the Turkey-EU summit in the Bulgarian city of Varna.
“Our operations against terrorism not only contribute to the security of ourselves and the Syrians but also to the security of Europe,” he said.
“We now expect strong support [from Europe] on sensitive issues such as the fight against terrorism instead of rambling and unjust criticism,” said the president.
“I hope that we together have taken the first step of restoring confidence between the EU and us [Turkey] today, but it is not enough to say that we took this step; it has to be taken in concrete terms,” said Erdoğan.
“We hope that we have left a difficult period in Turkey-EU relations behind,” he said.
Regarding visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, Erdoğan said Ankara had submitted the necessary paperwork to the EU Commission in early February.
“We told the EU side that its task should be completed as soon as possible,” he added.
Additionally, Erdoğan said Ankara was hoping the process to update the customs union with the EU would begin.
Erdoğan also addressed the issue of Cyprus.
“Regardless of the course of the Cyprus issue, the equal involvement of Turkish Cypriots in decision-making on natural resources around the island is in accordance with international law,” he said.
The Turkish president also called on EU countries to cooperate in establishing stability and welfare in the Balkans.
“Let’s deepen our cooperation on international issues such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jerusalem, Yemen, the Rohingya and Africa,” Erdoğan added.
Turkey-EU refugee agreement
Also speaking at the joint press conference, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker vowed to be a “guarantor” of the continuation of Turkey-EU negotiations.
Juncker also praised the success of the Turkey-EU refugee agreement as it showed “visible results.”
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to take stricter measures against human smugglers, discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
For his part, European Council President Donald Tusk stressed the good cooperation between Turkey and the EU in certain areas, although it “is going through difficult times.”
“We reconfirm our readiness to keep up the dialogue and consultations and to work together to overcome current difficulties with a view to unleashing the potential of our partnership,” Tusk said, expressing his commitment to assist in this process.
Tusk thanked Turkey for its stance on migration and support for refugees, calling it “impressive.” He also thanked the Turkish people for hosting more than three million Syrian refugees.
“The EU has lent substantial support to improve the livelihood of these refugees, and this evening, we reaffirmed the European Union’s unwavering commitment to continue this support,” he added.
Tusk pointed to Turkey’s good bilateral relations with EU member states and said they welcome the positive progress in recent months with some of them.
He said the EU “stands united behind the Republic of Cyprus regarding its right to explore and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone.”
Reducing tensions is important in view of the shared objective of the successful reunification of Cyprus and for the benefit of both populations on the island, for Turkey, the EU and for EU-Turkey relations, Tusk added.
The summit was held under the leadership of Erdoğan, Tusk and Juncker.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov hosted the summit as chairman of the EU Council.