Turkey wants cooperative relations with the European Union (EU), not conflict, said Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik yesterday. Speaking at a joint press conference with Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland, Çelik said Ankara will focus on a positive agenda with the EU despite conflicts on certain matters with the bloc. "Turkey is one of the founder countries of the European Council and does not get involved from the outside. Ankara has adhered to the European Convention on Human Rights and didn't digress its commitments to the EU even at the time of declaring the state of emergency. We will continue our cooperation," Çelik said.
Çelik emphasized that Turkey has been actively fighting terror groups while respecting people's rights, adding that this struggle seriously contributes to the security of EU countries. "The country continues its struggle against terror groups while paying regard to the balance between security and freedom," he said. Saying that the relationship between Brussels and Ankara has not ruptured, Çelik underscored bilateral relations and cooperation still continue and that both sides "explicitly express criticisms to each other." He also touched on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) decision to restart the monitoring process for Turkey following the April 16 referendum, saying that the decision was "incorrect and unfair."
The controversial Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report on Turkey's constitutional referendum seriously harmed already strained relations between Turkey and the EU, as some contributors to the report were revealed to be sympathizers of the PKK terrorist organization and actively worked for the "no" front during the referendum campaign.
After an exchange of criticism between Turkey and the EU, PACE decided to restart the monitoring procedure in relation to Turkey, which has been under post-monitoring dialogue since 2004 during its Spring Part Session on April 25.
Turkey condemned the decision and said it had been made with political motives.For his part, Jagland said the EU's criticisms do not specifically target Turkey, and they consistently made these criticisms against other states too. "We are working on some mutual projects regarding freedom of expression. Our common goal is the continuation of cooperation. We are not talking about two different notions; Turkey and Europe. Turkey is not an outsider. Their place is within the European Council," he said.
Çelik also gave positive signals on Wednesday regarding the future of Turkey-EU relations after his meetings with some EU officials. Emre Gönen, an academic at Istanbul's Bilgi University, who specializes in EU politics, told Daily Sabah that maintaining the relations and working on the existing chapters should be priority in the bilateral relations, instead of focusing on new chapters. Speaking to the press following his meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for EU Enlargement Johannes Hahn, Çelik said the EU should open the chapters of the EU acquis for Ankara that will require the country to carry out reforms, if the bloc has concerns regarding human rights in Turkey.
He also called on them to unblock Chapter 23 on judicial and fundamental rights and Chapter 24 on justice, security and freedoms for Ankara's accession talks.
Çelik added that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is likely to meet with EU Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the May 25 NATO Summit in Brussels.