Turkey gets crucial EU messages on 5 issues

Turkey gets crucial EU messages on 5 issues

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey gets crucial EU messages on 5 issues

EU President Rompuy on his visit to Ankara. REUTERS photo

The president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, has given strong support to Turkey’s EU membership bid, Kurdish peace push and other reforms, while underlining the importance of a solution to the Cyprus issue and Turkey’s importance in the trade talks between the EU and the United States.

Van Rompuy was in Ankara yesterday and held meetings with Turkey’s top officials, including President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“As a candidate negotiating EU-membership, Turkey’s ties to the union are already very strong ... After a moment of standstill, this commitment will give a new impetus and will soon be translated into a concrete step forward. And I am confident other such concrete steps will follow. The accession negotiations are the main driver in our relationship,” van Rompuy said during his speech at the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) in Ankara. The council chief also voiced hope of “visa-free EU” for Turkey.

On Turkey’s peace push, van Rompuy said the bloc had noted with great respect the courage and vision the Turkish government had shown in launching a solution process on the Kurdish issue.

“This is the best chance in a generation to resolve a conflict which has claimed far too many lives,” van Rompuy said, adding that a resolution of the conflict could have many positive ramifications. “Perhaps even more than you’d now dare to hope.”

Van Rompuy also praised the reforms Turkey has taken in this period. “Turkey’s continued reform efforts are very important in this respect, also in the way it deals or has to deal with internal differences, inevitable disagreements, dissenting voices. Significant progress has been made, including in the constitutional reform process and most recently with the adoption of the fourth judicial reform package. Progress in this fundamental area is important for Turkish society, and will also improve the prospects of our bilateral relations, particularly as regards the process of accession. In this context, I recall the importance that the European Union attaches to fundamental rights and freedoms, in particular the freedom of the expression,” he said.

He also touched upon the negotiation of free trade area talks between the bloc and Washington, which he said was “a huge opportunity not just for both sides of the Atlantic, but also further beyond.”

“For Turkey, since you are part of the Customs Union with the EU, this trade deal will have important consequences too. That’s why the European Union is looking into the best way to keep Turkey involved in the process. In the end it will benefit all,” he said.

Energy and Cyprus

On energy, van Rompuy said the bloc had a common interest in improving access to energy resources, particularly from the Caspian and Central Asia. “At a time of growing demand worldwide, diversifying supply sources is a must, be it from conventional or renewable energy. Given our common energy challenges, increasing our cooperation in energy matters is desirable. That’s why European commissioners and Turkish ministers last year agreed to deepen our energy relations in several ways.”

Related to energy issue, van Rompuy also touched on the Cyprus and said it was essential to find a solution for the divided island and the discovery of gas reserves could be incentive for peace talks. “It remains essential to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue. ... In particular, the discovery of gas reserves off the shores of Cyprus could be an incentive for peaceful reconciliation.”