EU remains important for Turkey Babacan says

EU remains important for Turkey Babacan says

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
EU remains important for Turkey Babacan says

Turkish deputy prime minister Ali Babacan attended Financial Times Turkey Summit and responded questions of David Gardner. AA photo

The European Union is still relevant to Turkey, despite the crisis the 27-nation bloc is facing, said Ali Babacan, Turkish deputy prime minister for economic and financial affairs.

“We are very nervous that there could be a political break up of the EU. What we should do is to hope and pray that the EU does not collapse,” he said at the Turkey Summit organized by the Financial Times.

Babacan differs from many other Turkish Cabinet members in his rhetoric toward the EU, even differing from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in terms of setting deadlines for Turkish membership.

In view of the current circumstances, it is not realistic to ask for deadlines, he said. “What happens if nothing happens at the end of the deadline? What will be the outcome? Will we just break up or will the EU tell us to [go away],” he said, replying to a question about whether there was a need to ask for a deadline in order to speed up the accession process which has become stalled in recent years.

Erdoğan recently said the EU should make up its mind about Turkey by 2023.

“We have to wait for normal times in the EU. There needs to be more self-reliance and confidence in the EU [for us] to look for deadlines,” he said.

Saying these are critical times for Turkey and the EU, Babacan said: “What we should do is to hope and pray that there is no collapse in the EU, to advise our colleagues in the EU from our experience and also continue our accession process.”

Earlier in his opening speech, Babacan said: “We are nervous there could be a political breakup of the EU. But the ideals and values of the EU should not be victim of bad politics. In view of the current situation the EU is in, we are asked whether EU is still relevant to Turkey. We say ‘yes;’ because we are after the high standards of the EU.” These standards are democratic principles, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, he added.

When asked why Turkey should not choose to remain independent, Babacan said the EU accession process was an important tool for domestic reforms. “Whatever we do internally, having an external reporting approval mechanism to certify the quality of our democracy is important,” he said.

“The reports of the European Commission or the Parliament, whether we like it or not, are very important elements,” he said, starkly contradicting some of the members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which harshly criticized the European Commission’s latest progress report in Turkey, with one party member even metaphorically throwing the report into the garbage.

It is too early to say anything about Turkey becoming part of the eurozone or not, Babacan also said. “We are happy with our currency.”

If the EU ends up in a system with several tiers, whereby member countries will be able to choose different type of memberships, this could open the doors for Turkey, said Babacan.

No signs coming from France

Babacan also said no signs were coming from Paris about whether new President François Hollande would reverse his predecessor’s policy of stalling Turkey’s accession talks.

France had blocked talks in five policy areas under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, but Turkey hopes this policy will be revised under Hollande.

When asked whether there were any signs of change from countries that are blocking Turkish membership, Babacan said: “There are no signs yet. We had high hopes. But the new government [in France] is not giving any signs yet. We are not sure whether they are still in the process of figuring out their policies. We have to wait and see.”