Turkey's commitment toward the EU process has remained unchanged, said experts at a conference in Istanbul, on Saturday.
Organized by the SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, the conference was titled, "The Referendum Process and the Future of EU-Turkey Relations."
Speaking at the conference, Mehmet Mehdi Eker, vice president of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said, "Although we are at a critical juncture, the importance we give to the EU process hasn't changed."
"Yet," he added, "there are some major problems that we have to overcome: The Cyprus issue, the refugee deal and the EU's attitude toward Turkey's struggle against terrorism. All of these issues has created distrust between the parties, mostly because the EU did not keep its word on any of them."He said, it is inevitable for both parties to engage in a relation, mainly due to the shared geographical common faith.
"This relation, thus, will always continue." Eker also stated that 2017 will be critical regarding the future of the relations. "I would like to highlight the importance of starting a new chapter in our relations with the EU, for instance, by organizing a new EU-Turkey summit meeting this year," he said, while indicating that both sides should restore mutual trust.
Meanwhile, Bruno Maçeas, former EU Minister of Portugal and a Professor at Renmin University was less optimistic in his remarks. "I'm less optimistic than Eker. The distance between Turkey and the EU keeps increasing," he said, adding that there was little hope for any major positive changes in bilateral relations, in the near future. "Both Turkey and EU have their own challenges. Turkey has major problems such as the struggle with terrorism. The EU's major challenge, however, is its isolation from the outside world. There is a wall between the world and Europe itself," said Maçeas.
Pointing to the fact that all these challenges have a historical background, Maçeas said, from the EU's perspective Turkey looks too confident, which conflicts with Europe's all time desire of obedience from the others.
"Europe always thinks that the whole world will become like Europe and it is the cultural center of the world. Now, what the EU wants from Turkey is to obey to European values and its way of life."