Turkey welcomes EU’s influence in the Balkans

Turkey’s ministry for European Union affairs said on Friday the country welcomed the EU’s strategy to increase influence in the Balkans.

Selim Yenel, the undersecretary of the ministry, wrote in a letter published to the Financial Times.

Turkey has always supported the Balkan countries’ aspirations with regard to both NATO and the EU. Turkey wishes for stability and progress towards democracy in the Balkans, and these can be achieved by working towards membership of these two entities. In this respect, we can only welcome the EU’s latest strategy for the Balkans.

The letter was written in response to an editorial published by the newspaper on Tuesday, which said Russia and Turkey are “ready to fill the gap” if the EU fails to regain influence over the post-communist countries in the eastern Europe.

The bloc announced [PDF] a new enlargement perspective this week to include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as EU members states as long as they resolve bilateral disputes between them besides completing legal reforms required for full membership.

Russia’s influence on the Balkans is still very strong, the paper reported in November, especially in Serbia via military cooperation and energy deals.