Turkish FM says the EU has ‘over-politicised’ accession negotiations

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya (R) address a press conference after their meeting in Madrid, Spain, 08 January 2021. [EPA-EFE/J.J. Guillen]

The EU has “excessively politicised” the negotiations between Ankara and Brussels, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told EURACTIV’s partner EFE in a written interview, calling on the bloc to take a more positive approach.

He reiterated his country’s wish to join the EU, shortly before meeting his Spanish counterpart, Arancha González Laya last Friday in Madrid.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had very good relations with the President of the United States, Donald Trump. How does Turkey assess the result of the US elections?

Turkey values its deep-rooted relations with the United States. We have an alliance that has stood the test of time and has been instrumental in shaping the transatlantic political landscape.

However, there is no doubt that we currently have major disagreements, particularly over differences that affect our national security.

The USA’s cooperation with PKK/PYD/YPG (groups of Kurdish fighters allied with the USA in Syria), the inaction against FETÖ (the Gulenist movement that the Turkish government calls terrorist) and the use of sanctions against Turkey would be at the top of this list.

Finding a way to resolve our differences on these important issues is an urgent necessity not only for our bilateral relations but also for the health and vitality of transatlantic cooperation.

We appreciate that during his vice-presidency, current President-elect Biden visited Turkey after the atrocious coup attempt and showed his solidarity with the Turkish government and nation. Thus, we hope that this first-hand experience of the danger posed by this terrorist organization will enable the new US Administration to take urgent and concrete action on FETÖ and its leader.

But above all we hope that it (the US) will recognise the strategic importance of the Turkish-American relations and take the necessary steps to fully develop its potential.

The way to do this is to address our differences through dialogue and diplomacy, as allies do. A good first step in this direction would be to put an end to the law on countering adversaries through sanctions (CAATSA), imposed on Turkey by the Trump Administration under the pretext of our acquisition of S-400 air defense systems (Russian-made weapons).

There is no room for threats or sanctions between allies. These sanctions, regardless of their scope, basis, objective or severity, are a direct affront to Turkey’s sovereignty.

Turkey is a prominent NATO ally and contributes to the fulfilment of the Alliance’s fundamental tasks, especially collective defense, crisis management and security cooperation. We are one of the five largest contributors to the Alliance missions and operations and the eighth largest contributor to NATO’s joint budget.

Turkey’s taking command of the NATO High Readiness Joint Task Force on 1 January 2021 is a recent testimony to our commitment to the Alliance, including its stance on deterrence and defense against existing threats. In this context, I would like to add that the Alliance’s ties with the United States provide a solid basis for improving our bilateral relations in all their aspects.

We hope that the Biden Administration will see this and engage with us in a meaningful dialogue that will help us return to our real agenda and begin to cooperate more effectively on a range of issues from Syria to Libya.

In this regard, the initial messages coming from the Biden Administration regarding the importance of transatlantic relations and effective multilateralism, as well as the commitment to constructive cooperation with the allies, are quite encouraging. Any steps in this direction would benefit both our relations and the wider transatlantic community.

Has your country lost interest in joining the EU?

Certainly not. EU membership remains a strategic priority for Turkey. We want to enhance our relations with the EU in line with our membership perspective. As president Erdoğan recently underlined, we want to build our future together with the EU.

When the question is asked in the right way, about 80% of Turks believe that EU membership is useful for Turkey and supports the accession process. On the contrary, the EU has excessively politicized our accession negotiations and allowed member states to abuse solidarity with other members against Turkey for their domestic and foreign policy objectives. This approach is unfair and unrealistic.

We want to revitalize our accession process. So far, we have demonstrated in a concrete way our principled approach to diplomacy, dialogue, reduction of tensions and resumption of contacts. Instead of pushing Turkey further away, the EU should take a more positive approach and keep Turkey’s membership perspective open. Turkey’s accession to the EU may appear to be a challenge for some. However, once completed, it will be the most valuable of all.

After the EU Summit in December, there is a window of opportunity for a positive agenda in Turkey-EU relations. We continue to do our best to seize this opportunity. But Turkey’s unilateral efforts will not be enough. The EU should also encourage its members to take a more positive and constructive approach.

In addition to being a candidate country for negotiations since 2005, Turkey is at the same time a key strategic partner of the Union. Our relations are important not only for both sides (…) In the current situation, revising the EU-Turkey Declaration of 18 March (2016) on migration in its entirety should be a common priority for both Turkey and the EU.

As agreed by President Erdoğan, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, on 9 March 2020 in Brussels, we must renew the Declaration by strengthening Turkey’s EU perspective, starting the process of modernizing the Customs Union, revitalising dialogue and high-level summits, promoting visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, and improving cooperation in managing irregular migration and fighting terrorism.

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