EU Minister regrets neglect of European public opinion

EU Minister regrets neglect of European public opinion

Deniz Zeyrek OSLO
EU Minister regrets neglect of European public opinion

Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır made an official visit to the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkır has admitted failures in "correcting misperceptions" in European countries about Turkey, but vowed that the government would continue to strive to boost Turkey’s image and increase the amount of high-level visits to Brussels.

“It is understood that we have neglected European countries for some time. Some perceptions being established is inevitable because of this. We will have to change these perceptions by thoroughly explaining the facts,” Bozkır told Hürriyet on Nov. 6, as he concluded an official visit to the Norwegian capital Oslo.

According to Bozkır, isolated visits to European countries would not be sufficient to draw an accurate picture of Turkey in the eyes of European public opinion. Instead, frequent visits by ministers, lawmakers, representatives of civil society organizations and academics should be paid to each country were necessary, he said.

Maintaining that visits recently paid to Estonia, France and Latvia by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have already been useful in this regard, Bozkır added that both Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu would separately visit Brussels in early 2015.

“Turkey’s EU membership process will also proceed more strongly to the extent we smooth away misperceptions. It is also fundamental to feel closer to the EU,” he said.

While recalling that opening benchmarks for Chapters 23, on the Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, and Chapter 24, on Justice, Freedom and Security, has been on the union’s agenda, the minister said steps taken for democracy and reforms by Turkey were more important than opening more chapters for membership negotiations with the EU.

The EU issue is a “permanent item’ on the government’s agenda, he stressed.

Turkey became an associate of the bloc in the 1960s, but accession talks launched in 2005 became bogged down in a dispute over Greek Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognize as a state officially representing the entire divided island, and opposition from Paris and Berlin.

Since it began accession negotiations in October 2005, Ankara has opened only 14 of the 35 policy chapters, and only one of the open chapters has been provisionally closed.

‘No marriage, no divorce’

Referring to the Greek Cypriot administration’s recent decision to halt the reunification talks with Turkish Cyprus, Bozkır said it was not possible to yield a result with the good will of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus alone.

“Excuses recently produced by Greek Cyprus indicate they do not want to solve this issue,” he said, while noting Turkey would preserve its willingness for a resolution no matter what Greek Cyprus does.

“We are not married so we cannot get divorced. We are already divorced and are trying to get married. This marriage, however, should be carefully built based on past experiences,” he replied when asked whether a “velvet divorce” could happen on the divided island.

As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, which requires it to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight negotiation chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligations.