On Tuesday of this week, European Parliament held a session on Turkey, as usual. This time, the subject of discussion was Turkey's Operation Olive Branch Turkey in Afrin, Syria, as part of its war on terrorism. Unfortunately, parliamentarians showed once again that they could not understand Ankara's concerns. The Turkish public is not interested in their talk for this reason. One member held a placard that read: "Afrin is not alone", to which we nodded with a smile, because it is true that the people of Afrin are not alone. Thankfully, Turkey is protecting them against the PKK and its Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed People's Protection Units (YPG).
Speaking on behalf of the European Commission at the beginning of Tuesday's session, EU High Representativefor Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said: "Turkey is facing enormous challenges," noting terrorist attacks, the failed coup attempt, the refugee problem and the war ongoing in the region. She added that they understand Turkey's concerns and that it is Turkey's right and duty to provide security for its citizens living near the Syria border. It is pleasing to see that she is aware of the situation. However, the sandbox games played at European Parliament are not taking us any further. The parliamentarians who are not aware of the realities of the counterterrorism fight or manipulated by terrorist groups do not have anything to do with the situation. Making a fresh start in EU-Turkish relations will favor both parties as well as counterterrorism efforts.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Western Balkan countries can enter the EU by 2025. We are pleased to hear this statement, since Ankara's EU accession is not the only issue we are concerned about. Accession of Muslim countries in the Balkans to the EU will prevent the bloc from turning into a Christian league. As a union encompassing both Christians and Muslims on equal terms, the EU can look at the future with hope. For this very reason, it is pleasing to hear that the six Western Balkan countries, namely Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, can enter the EU by 2025.
In his statement, Juncker rightfully said: "Investing in the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans means investing in the security and future of our Union." But it must be noted that this is especially valid for Turkey. Maintaining constructive negotiations with Ankara will above all mean investing in the EU's security and future. Therefore, we are glad that the date of the Turkey-EU Summit, which was planned to be held for a long time to discuss the current situation and future direction of Turkish-EU relations, has finally been announced. According to the announcement from EU officials, the critical summit will take place in Varna, Bulgaria, on March 26, 2018. Bulgaria's term presidency will hopefully bring luck to Turkish-EU relations.
During the summit, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will attend, European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is also European Council term president, will meet to handle various crucial subjects, including Turkish-EU relations. I am sure that the other subjects of discussion will include the situation in Syria and Iraq, the counterterrorism fight, the refugee challenge, the status of Jerusalem and the U.S.
The EU needs such a summit even more than Turkey. The EU has lately been suffering from big challenges due to the U.S.'s faulty policies and has been grappling with enormous problems in the face of crises created by Russia and the U.S. In addition, the EU has not been able to establish coherent relations with China. Frankly, it is having difficulty in keeping pace with the new world order. In this respect, Turkey is a great chance for the EU. I hope the EU is aware of this.