Ankara: EU cannot limit ties to counterterrorism, refugee deal


EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has said that Turkey, an EU candidate country, cannot be solely defined as a strong partner to cooperate on issues such as the fight against terrorism and accommodating refugees, stressing that EU negotiations are essential to the relations between the two sides.

"Turkey cannot solely be seen as a military headquarters in the fight against terrorism or a camp for refugees. We do not accept being a country solely to cooperate on the issues of refugees and the fight against terrorism, as I demanded the opening of Chapters 23 and 24, in the EU accession process," Çelik said during Parliament's Planning and Budget Committee late Monday.

He said that it is contradictory that the chapters, which relate to issues for which Turkey has been criticized, have not been opened yet. Çelik reiterated that Turkey favors full membership talks and will not accept any other suggestions.

Ankara's EU talks have reached an impasse as a result of the yawning gap between the country and the EU on key political issues. Even though some European countries have called for ending talks with Ankara, Ankara has been conveying the message that it is resolute in the talks and will not leave the negotiating table.

Çelik added that Europe's stance on the PKK terrorist organization and Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has been the main issues affecting relations between Turkey and Europe. "Our expectation is the prevention of FETÖ and PKK activities. When their activities are prohibited, relations will improve faster."

Touching on the issue of upgrading Turkey's customs union agreement with the EU, Çelik said that Turkey, with its respective institutions, is ready for the process, awaiting steps from the European Council. He stressed the significance of economic ties and said that political debates need to be excluded from the process of upgrading the customs union. The strained relations with the EU, particularly with Germany, have had implications for Turkey's process of upgrading the customs union agreement. During its run-up to the Sept. 24 elections, Germany took a hardline policy on Turkey that led to the deterioration of ties.

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