By Kemal Karadag, Zehra Aydin and Yildiz Nevin Gundogmus
Turkey will never step back from its efforts to become an EU member despite Europe’s lack of support for Ankara in its fight against terrorism, ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party deputy chairman said on Wednesday.
Talking to reporters after a central executive board meeting at AK Party's headquarters in Ankara, Yasin Aktay said: "Turkey has not given up on the European membership and it will not do so in the future.
"Unfortunately, both the rhetoric laid forth in reports written by the EU in 2016 over Turkey as well as the EU's lack of support for Turkey in its fight against terrorist groups is a disappointment."
Turkey applied for membership in the EU in 1987, while accession talks began in 2005.
Negotiations, however, hit a stalemate in 2007 because of Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue. Also, German and French governments opposed the country’s full EU membership.
To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March, which aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area that comprises mostly EU states.
In a joint statement from November 2015, the EU and Turkey confirmed their commitments to re-energize the accession process.
A year later, however, the European Parliament approved a non-binding motion to freeze EU-membership talks with Turkey, in response to post-coup investigations and recent developments in the country, including measures taken within the framework of the fight against the PKK and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) terrorist groups.
According to Aktay, the rise in discrimination in Europe, especially against Turks and Muslims was currently a serious concern threatening European values and institutions.
Over the extradition of FETO’s ringleader, Fetullah Gulen, Aktay said Turkey expects U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to handle the extradition in a different way than the current Barack Obama administration.
Turkish authorities accuse Gulen, who resides in the U.S. since 1999, of being the mastermind of the July 15 defeated coup.
Aktay also added that efforts to change the Turkish constitution within a peaceful atmosphere remain ongoing.
Constitutional change, in particular, the call for a presidential system, has been on the political agenda since Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former prime minister and AK Party leader, was elected Turkey's president in August 2014.
That election was the first time a Turkish president was directly chosen by popular vote.
The proposed changes would be put to a public referendum even if the government got the necessary votes in parliament to avoid the need for one, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last month.
Turkey's new constitutional draft needs 330 votes to pave the way for a referendum.
The AK Party, with 316 seats, and the MHP, with 40, both back the bill.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.