Will Turkey’s strained EU relations turn to a new phase after the 4th Reform Action Group Meeting? Ministers from Turkish cabinet have announced an optimistic vision for relations with the union.Turkey’s ambitions to become a full member of the European Union had been increased in early 2000s with the governing Justice & Development Party announcing that their will strive for full membership; however in the past decade the relationship between the union and Turkey has been deteriorating. Since freezing of the accession negotiation talks in 2017, it has been a matter of curiosity.
President of France, Emmanuel Macron had said in a meeting of French ambassadors in Paris that Turkey’s EU ambitions should be questioned as “President Erdoğan’s Turkey is not the same Turkey as that of Atatürk’s. Turkish president is repeatedly confirming his Euroskeptical pan-Islamist agenda everyday. Are we still sincerely going to talk about Turkey’s potential EU membership? We should instead establish a strategic partnership with Turkey rather than full membership to the European Union.”
French president’s statement had been met with reaction by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today four minister of the Turkish cabinet have announced willingness to restart EU process with a fresh spirit at the 4th Reform Action Group Meeting which has been held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs European Union Directorate where the minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu let the meeting with participation of Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül, Minister of Treasury & Finance Berat Albayrak and Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu.
MINISTERS SPOKE AFTER THE MEETING
After the meeting a press conference has been held and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Çavuşoğlu said “we have dialogue meetings with the EU officials, we will restart these meetings. Whether we become members of the EU or not, it has always been a priority for our government. We have agreed to speed up reform process. We will take faster steps with less bureaucracy. We are also planning to closely cooperate with the Council of Europe. We will focus on matters where we can get results, such as restarting Customs Union negotiations and visa liberalization talks.”
After Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül has said “we have taken a decision to implement the reforms in Turkey, put down chapters 23 and 24 separately on the table. We will start applying the target schedules in judiciary as of Monday. We will continue extensive dialogue with the EU; we will improve conditions for the human rights and liberties in Turkey.” Gül also announced that the AKP government had had reservations regarding human rights but these reservations have now completely been lifted; announcing that the EU representatives have also been notified of this development.
Minister of Treasury & Finance Berat Albayrak took the floor following Gül saying “as of yesterday we have restructured 60 Billion Turkish Liras worth of debt belonging to 5.5 million tax-payers, and this shows that there is a successful process going on here. The statements targeting our economy have raised tension in Turkey; Europe has responded very well in line with alliance spirit after political attacks targeted our economy. We have seen that this process could not possibly be explained with Turkey’s economic situation alone.” Albayrak continued his speech announcing that in the coming week he would visit France and the week after United Kingdom, to be followed by Germany the following week. Albayrak also announced that another major country will soon be visited, but the dates would be announced after confirmation.
WAR AGAINST TERROR MARKS THE EU MESSAGE
Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu finally came up and said “Turkey has been loyal to March 18 agreement; we do know that neither Turkey is the old Turkey, nor Europe is the old Europe. This meeting verifies our country’s willingness for reform. There has been a positive spirit in the meeting. Turkey on the one hand has been trying to fulfill the criteria for EU and on the other hand continue a war against terror which is also in line with EU’s security prospects.” Minister Soylu also stated that there are heavily armed special-ops wandering on streets of London, comparing the situation to Turkey “21st century is dictating certain things to us”.
Although during their speeches ministers have all uttered the significance of restarting EU process for the Turkish government, only the Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül has uttered the words “human rights,” “liberty,” and “judiciary” while Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu has mentioned “war against terror” 5 times and only said “reform” once.