There were three positive developments with regard to EU-Turkish relations last week. The warm relations between Turkey and three EU countries following the unpleasant situations over the course of 2017 have increased our hopes for 2018.
First of all, it is useful to note that the latest claims suggesting that Turkey has given up on its EU membership path are not true. In Turkey, the president, government, Parliament, parties and public have not changed their opinion on EU membership. Turkey only expects the EU to take constructive steps in this regard by remaining loyal to the accession process. Although the EU has not opened many negotiation chapters, which led to great disappointment, Turkey still continues to wait patiently since the country has not abandoned its objectives, as it respects EU values.
Presently, Turkey maintains its determined stance with regard to respecting EU values even though many EU administrators have breached these values and far-right parties have come into prominence across the EU by disregarding the founding principles of the EU.We cannot overlook the fact that there are several EU countries that take as determined a stance as Turkey, particularly with regard to the refugee issue and counterterrorism. Despite a number of EU countries' unfriendly behavior toward Turkey and anti-Turkish government programs, Turkey has still not given up its decision to advance toward EU membership. In return, Turkey rightfully expects the EU to take a clear and honest stance. The country also expects the EU either to accelerate the pace of accession negotiations or clearly articulate that it does not want Turkey in the EU. Rightfully, unless a change is made in the EU candidate position, the country is not inclined to suggestions to build relations similar to those with Britain. Such suggestions can be considered only after the EU announces the cancellation of Ankara's candidacy. Such a cancellation decision cannot be made within the EU by unanimous vote. This would be a very risky and irresponsible decision. As a matter of fact, it would be more in line with the EU's interests if opening chapters and enabling the progression of negotiations were allowed.
Last Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in Paris with his delegation as the guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. During 2017, France displayed a good example of friendly behavior toward Turkey by refusing to join the anti-Turkish activities triggered particularly by Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The Turkish public has appreciated this; therefore, Erdoğan carried out his first official foreign contact of 2018 in Paris. The talks while there, which have been useful in terms of developing partnerships between Turkey and France, enabled a platform in which Turkey's EU path could be openly discussed. Both Erdoğan and Macron clearly expressed the EU's need to behave honestly in this respect. Erdoğan particularly stressed that they did not receive what they expected from the EU throughout 2017, adding that they were still hopeful for 2018.
Following this visit, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu headed to Gosslar as the guest of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel hosted Çavuşoğlu at his personal residence and offered him Turkish tea. Remember, these two previously met in Antalya. The latest meeting in Gosslar has drawn a positive picture. The meeting was also meaningful in terms of rapprochement efforts between Turkey and Germany following the negativities of 2017. I want to emphasize that Turkey now expects to see positive steps from Germany given that a crisis between Germany and Turkey will undermine both countries. Germany can take many steps with regard to renewing the customs union agreement and preventing the restriction of tourist visits to Turkey. Hopefully, they can take such steps.
The best development of the week took place in Istanbul. The reopening ceremony of an iconic Bulgarian church in the Balat neighborhood, which is the world's only iron church, was a platform from which significant messages were delivered concerning EU-Turkish relations as Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov attended the grand ceremony. As the EU's term president, Borissov said that he would exert efforts in favor of Turkey, which is a pleasing remark. Of course, we are realistic. We have not yet heard tangible or positive remarks from France or Germany. We know that Borissov's statement cannot change anything in favor of Turkey, as Bulgaria is not an influential country in the EU. But despite that, new dialogues and statements from EU leaders that stress the EU's necessity to be honest with Turkey offer a promising picture for 2018.