Jun 27 2018

EU must overcome problems and integrate Turkey – Minister

The currently troubled relations between Turkey and the European Union are not without precedent, and it is in the interests of Europe and world peace to reverse the problems and aim for cooperation, Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs and chief negotiator Ömer Çelik wrote in an article for independent journal the Turkish Policy Quarterly.

In fact, reports emerged last Sunday that Çelik’s own ministry is on course to be axed under the new government and incorporated into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, likely due to poor relations with the EU that have seen Turkey’s accession application put on hold.

These relations are in part due to the changing world dynamics, which have shifted the focus away from the West and towards rising powers centred in the Pacific Basin, and due to the ongoing crises in the European Union that have seen the United Kingdom voting to leave and political movements in other member states aiming to do the same.

However, “Turkey’s EU membership is more important than ever given the new dynamics and changes in the world order. It is obvious that the international system needs Turkey-EU cooperation in order to solve a number of global problems, ranging from the economy and energy to foreign policy, as well as discrimination and terrorism within the context of our common values,” wrote Çelik.

Existing areas of cooperation include the deal to control migration of refugees and take back some of those who have arrived in the EU, a deal which Turkey has honoured but for which it has so far not received its payment in full, said the minister.

The EU should also be more proactive in fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a group that has been in conflict with Turkish armed forces since launching an insurgency aimed at Kurdish self-rule in 1984, said Çelik. The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the EU.

Çelik cited the March summit in Varna, where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met EU leaders, as a good sign that generated a sorely needed positive atmosphere in EU-Turkish relations.

“The most important thing about the Varna Summit will be turning the positive atmosphere into concrete policies and practices. In every aspect of the decisions that were made in previous summits, Turkey has acted in accordance with the principle of pacta sunt servanda and kept its end of the deal. However, the EU's failure in fulfilling its own commitments has resulted in a profound sense of mistrust in the EU among the Turkish people,” he wrote.

In the end, said Çelik, Turkey is “an inseparable part of Europe” that has “played a critical role in Europe’s political, economic, and cultural development and has integrated with Europe in fields ranging from security, economy, sports, culture, and art, and it will continue to be a “key country” for the stability and prosperity of Europe and the world in the future.”