EU, Turkey destined to find way forward together, says EU delegation head to Turkey
İpek Yezdani - ISTANBULTurkey and the European Union share a common destiny to walk forward together, according to Christian Berger, the head of the EU delegation to Turkey, who said it was in Ankara’s interest to remain on its path to join the bloc.
“Both of us are destined to find a way forward together,” Berger told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Just look at the map. We are neighbors; we are very close, and Turkey is in a difficult geographical neighborhood. We also have problems, so I think we are destined [to see] Turkey and the EU work and move forward together.”
Berger highlighted the efforts expended by both parties until today. “Turkey has received assistance and has taken many measures in previous years to harmonize its legislation with the EU to adopt the required standards,” he said.
Staying on the EU path offers very strong advantages for Turkey, he said.
“Take economic development, for example. Turkey has done a lot itself obviously and clearly, Turkish people are very skilled in business and trade. But the EU harmonization process has additionally helped. Countries in the region are actually jealous of the development in Turkey and its economic success,” he said. “I worked in other countries and I used to hear this all the time. Hard work and successful economic reforms helped bring about impressive results.”
The ambassador admitted that Turkey and the EU have been experiencing tense relations while also highlighting that a good relationship was very important for both sides.
“When you look at the history of EU-Turkey relations, there have been always ups and downs, but in the end, problems were overcome. When it comes to the status, Turkey is a candidate country and nothing has been said or done officially that would change this. The process will therefore continue, even without de facto negotiations on chapters at the moment. When the conditions are right, we’ll continue,” he said.
Quoting the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, following an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Malta last month, Berger said Turkey was fully aware of the criteria and the conditions that needed to be fulfilled.
“It’s as simple as that: Once these criteria are taken into consideration, the process will go ahead,” he said.
Mogherini, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and others have stated that “we have a great interest in having a very strong, stable and economically successful Turkey,” Berger said.
“As Mr. Juncker said, we clearly wish Turkey will come closer to Europe. I think this would also be in Turkey’s interest,” he said.
Touching on the recent crises with the Netherlands and Germany, particularly ahead of the constitutional amendments referendum in Turkey on April 16, Berger said normalization could come soon.
“We have seen a lot of exchanges between those two countries and Turkey and a lot of very strong language used. I think it is very important and also in the interest of our bilateral EU-Turkey relationship that the tone returns to normal, which I am sure will happen soon,” the envoy said.
However, the reinstitution of the death penalty, an issue that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has championed, remains an obstacle, the ambassador said.
“Membership means sharing the values that the union stands for; capital punishment is not one of them,” he said.
Berger also said the EU’s criticisms regarding press freedom, human rights and judicial independence in Turkey was important.
“All these issues are very important because they are the bedrock of the relationship and engagement in the accession process. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and other freedoms, including the freedom of the media, are essential. We have taken note of reports and complaints regarding these issues and trust that for criminal offences, they will be addressed by the competent courts within the rule of law.
But freedom of expression and the media itself are part of those shared values I was mentioning that underlie the EU-Turkey bilateral relationship in the framework of Turkey’s accession process,” Berger said.