More cooperation with EU to beat challenges, minister says
ANKARAMore cooperation with the European Union is needed to vanquish challenges, Turkish EU Minister Ömer Çelik has said, commenting on the European Parliament’s call to freeze Turkish membership talks.
“Moves such as the European Parliament’s visionless decision will go down in history as marginal decisions. In the future we should cooperate more against big challenges,” Çelik said.
On Nov. 24, European lawmakers voted to approve a non-binding motion to freeze EU membership talks with Turkey.
Arguing that relations between the EU and Turkey could not be reduced to the issues of the struggle against terrorism and migration alone, Çelik said the agenda between the two sides was “very big” and that accession negotiations form the basis of it.
Çelik also said the upcoming period would be “very intense” for Turkey and the EU and that relations between the aforementioned sides should be developed within the framework of uttermost strength, constructive dialogue and criticism.
Çelik said the European Parliament should have stood in solidarity with Turkey following the July 15 coup attempt, which left 248 people dead and nearly 2,200 wounded.
“This coup attempt took place on European soil, against a European democracy. What we’re proud of is this; the democratic conscience of the Turkish people is so high that the people took to the streets. People were martyred, thousands were wounded and this coup attempt was thwarted,” Çelik said, adding that Turkey had been a European state and has been a European democracy for the last hundred years.
During his speech, Çelik said the European Parliament should have defended Turkey’s democracy in the wake of the failed takeover.
“They [the European Parliament] are saying that they stood beside the Turkish people, but it’s not enough to stand with the Turkish people rhetorically,” Çelik said, adding that no MEP visited Turkey until one-and-a-half months after the thwarted coup.
“Who are the sides? The ones who directed their weapons to kill our people and the representatives of the elected government and the people themselves. Thus, in all this framework, if a powerful solidarity had been shown with Turkish democracy, we would have given the world a message; we would have shown how powerful European Union institutions stand up when a democracy outside its borders is attacked,” he also said.
Turkish-EU relations have been strained due to an open split of opinions over a migrant deal.
Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up membership talks in March as part of an accord on curbing migrant flows into Greece.
The deal was clinched in return for several incentives for Ankara, including EU cash assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel to the Schengen area by Turks.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said Turkey should not be “fixated” on the idea of joining the European Union and should look at other opportunities, such as the Russia-led Shanghai Pact.
“Turkey should first of all feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated” about joining it, Erdoğan told reporters on the presidential plane while returning from Uzbekistan, daily Hürriyet reported on Nov. 20.