Turkey, Europe

‘Turkey’s place is in Europe’: EU lawmaker

Though 'politically not fully part of EU', Turkey’s place is in Europe, socially and economically, MEP tells Anadolu Agency

Tugrul Cam   | 07.12.2020
‘Turkey’s place is in Europe’: EU lawmaker


A key EU lawmaker on Monday said even small progress in Turkey-EU relations offers a window of opportunity for dialogue.

“The very recent downturn in Turkey-EU relations after the geopolitical developments in the Eastern Mediterranean could be gradually reversed through some moves from each side,” Ryszard Czarnecki, the head of the EU-Turkey Friendship Group in the European Parliament, told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

“First, the EU should acknowledge the fact that one of Turkey’s main targets in the region is to be a recognized player in the East Med energy competition and not to feel 'surrounded' by the members of the East-Med Gas Forum (Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, Italy, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine).

"Turkey already offered to convene an international conference to discuss the geopolitical developments in the region. Moreover, Turkey signaled that it is ready for a constructive engagement,” he said.

He urged each side to take steps towards developing a positive agenda consisting of a “modernized Customs Union” as well as further cooperation on migration, visa liberalization, and enhanced people-to-people contacts.

“Even a small progress in Turkey-EU relations offers a window of opportunity for dialogue and negotiation between the parties on broader issues,” he underlined.

Czarnecki said the most realistic way forward would be the “Customs Union modernization process”, which would rekindle a rules-based approach and restart Turkey’s process of harmonization toward the EU.

“Customs Union modernization would enable an upgrade of the trade relationship, trigger structural reforms in the Turkish economy, necessitate political reforms encompassing rights and freedoms and rule of law mechanisms, and align Turkish production sectors with EU norms and standards including the Green Deal agenda,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Stressing that Turkey’s geopolitical advantage is its geographical proximity to the EU, he added: “It gives Turkey the ability to deliver to Europe much faster compared to East Asian economies. Plus, by allowing their manufacturing to take place in Turkey, European producers can enjoy low-cost site visits.

"Although Turkey’s production costs are higher compared to some Far Eastern countries, it offers a favorable exchange rate. With its proximity to the world's most sophisticated single market, its high-level caliber workforce, and business-savvy entrepreneurs. This is Turkey's big chance.”

‘Turkey’s place is in Europe’

Czarnecki has underlined that Turkey has been a part of European diplomacy since the Concert of Europe in 1815.

The relations between the EU and Turkey date back decades, he added, reminding Turkey’s application for association with the then-European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959, followed by the Association Agreement (Ankara Agreement) in 1963.

“Then-European Commission President Walter Hallstein called the agreement ‘an event of great political significance’ and said 'Turkey is part of Europe',” he reminded.

“Despite being one of the first countries to create an association with the European Community, Turkey was unable to move swiftly in the direction of further integration in the half-century since. Numerous complex political developments on both sides were responsible for this,” he said.

“Even politically not fully part of the EU, socially and economically Turkey’s place is in Europe,” he added.

Pointing to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent speech, saying he sees Turkey’s future in Europe, Czarnecki said: “It seems that Turkey will seek to identify its common interests with the US and the European Union. I understand Turkey will rely more heavily on diplomacy and dialogue for that purpose.

"Erdogan urged Western governments to pursue their shared strategic interests with Turkey. In fact, Turkey’s engagement and strong military presence in Syria and Southern Caucasus is a strategic asset for the Western World.”

As the founding chairman of the EU-Turkey Friendship Group, Czarnecki said the platform promotes high-level dialogue among European and Turkish decision-makers, business communities, and civil society to bring Turkey and the EU closer.

“Through constructive gatherings on a wide variety of topics and parliamentary diplomacy, we are working to intensify relations between the people working in and for Turkey, the EU institutions, as well as member states.”

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