Coronavirus pandemic boosting Turkey, EU relations, says senior Turkish official

Turkey and the European Union have gotten closer while cooperating in battling the coronavirus pandemic, the Turkish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs said.

The COVID-19 outbreak “demonstrated what Turkey can do in crisis times for the good and benefit of all (in Europe),” state-run Anadolu news agency quoted the EU Affairs Ambassador Faruk Kaymakçı as saying during a video discussion with the head of the EU Delegation to Turkey.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic as a clear demonstration of the need for unity, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month revived Ankara’s bid for EU membership, calling to “revitalise” their relationship.

The EU declared Turkey as a candidate country in 1999 and accession negotiations started in 2005, however the process has been stalled particularly after 2016, due to what the EU says Turkey’s drift away from European values. 

“When we faced the coronavirus crisis we discovered again the importance of Turkey in Europe in terms of the medical industry, in terms of Turkey’s medical capacity'' Kaymakçı told EU’s Christian Berger.

Moreover, Turkey beat EU institutions in its ability “to provide some medical assistance to some EU member states as well as some candidate countries,” he said.

Turkey has dispatched medical equipment to 81 countries, including Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, the Foriegn Ministry said earlier this week.

“We need to work together with our immediate partner and immediate neighbor,” Berger said. “This is exactly what we are doing.”

Berger also praised the Turkish civil protection mechanism for helping thousands of EU citizens return to their home countries from across the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Turkey has repatriated nearly 70,000 of its citizens from over 105 countries since February, and is currently working together with the EU to arrange return flights for EU citizens in Central Asia and South Africa.