Turkey, EU have new window of opportunity for talks: FM Çavuşoğlu
The year 2020 was difficult for relations between Turkey and the European Union, but now a window of opportunity appeared for a renewed dialogue between Ankara and Brussels, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Jan. 27.
“We believe a genuine Turkey-EU partnership can bring about real changes in vital areas, including migration, trade, energy, security, and defense, as well as Syria, Libya, the Balkans, Caucasus, and other issues,” Çavuşoğlu said, addressing an online meeting with his Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok, during the 8th bilateral Wittenburg Conference.
The past year had been a difficult one that “tested” relations between Turkey and Europe. However, he said,
the EU “extended a hand to Turkey at the December summit” of the European leaders and Ankara “responded favorably” to the gesture.
The minister noted that the majority in the EU also agree with this opinion as he has seen over his recent contacts with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
In his visit to Brussels last week, the EU and Turkey have decided to work on a road map and take concrete steps, Çavuşoğlu said.
“I think the Turkey-EU partnership could make a significant impact on important issues,” the minister said, noting that a 2016 migrant deal has proved this partnership.
“It was thanks to joint efforts by Turkey and the EU that we were able to manage Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II,” the minister stated.
He reaffirmed Ankara’s readiness for “a true partnership as a candidate country,” and said Turkey has “the highest level of commitment” when it comes to improving ties with the union.
“We are also ready for the fifth U.N. meeting on Cyprus and the east Med Conference, both of which were our proposals,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to a Cyprus meeting of both sides on the island, plus its three guarantor countries and the UN, as well as a proposed conference of all countries with coasts on the Eastern Mediterranean, including Turkish Cyprus.
On Turkey’s expectations of the EU, he said the country seeks “the renewal of the March 18  Statement in all aspects, which include the accession process, Customs Union update, visa liberalization, migration cooperation, high-level dialogue, and counter-terrorism cooperation,” referring to a 2016 agreement from the height of the migrant crisis. Turkey has said the EU failed to uphold its obligations under the pact.
Citing Turkish-Dutch ties, Çavuşoğlu said bilateral cooperation between offers “huge potential” for both countries. “Apart from tulips, Turkish and Dutch people have many things in common; we are both enterprising, business-minded, and practical people,” he said.
“Located in different corners of Europe, we can also do much to address the problems facing our continent,” the minister stated.
He said the Wittenburg Conference “is an indication of our will to continue high-level dialogue” and pledged to hold next year’s session in the Turkish resort city of Antalya.
The minister recalled that the decision to start accession talks between Turkey and the EU was taken in December 2004 during the Dutch presidency. “We count on the Netherlands’ support in that regard,” he added.
The Netherlands also played a significant role in the 2016 migrant deal that, among other things, aimed to end irregular migration to the EU and improve conditions for millions of Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey, Çavuşoğlu noted.
The Dutch foreign minister, for his part, said his country and Turkey need each other to cope with migration, noting that Turkey has been making very important efforts to control migration flows.
Blok also hailed the two countries’ bilateral ties, saying that their partnership is “highly significant” despite some differences of opinion. His country and Turkey enjoy a historic alliance and there are “very important cooperation matters” between the two countries in many areas, the Dutch minister stated.