Turkey expects honesty from EU, rules out privileged partnership

Positive remarks from Turkey and the EU politicians signal an easing of strained ties between Ankara and Brussels, but Turkey says it will not accept any deals other than full membership.

The signals of reciprocal ambition of Turkey and the European Union on recovering the strained relations are starting to surface, however, Ankara has ruled out any alternative plans, such as privileged membership or a deal similar to Brexit. Parliamentary European Union Harmonization Committee Chairman Mehmet Kasım Gülpınar said the Turkish government expects honesty from the European Union in the upcoming term after the two sides have quarreled on a wide range of issues for a long time.

Commenting on the recent news that Bulgaria, which will take over the rotating EU presidency this term, did not mention Turkey in its six-month program, Gülpınar said term presidents cannot act on their own, independently from the EU. He stressed that Bulgaria is one of the closest countries to Turkey and noted that Ankara will not accept any option other than full membership.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also said earlier this week that the EU should seek new ways of dealing with Turkey. According to Gabriel, the EU needs to find "alternative" ways of creating closer cooperation and partnerships with both Turkey and Ukraine as both countries are unlikely to join the 28-member bloc in the foreseeable future. The German foreign minister presumed that such a model could lead to a "new, closer form of customs union" between Turkey and the EU.

However, the Parliamentary European Union Harmonization Committee chairman said, "What is definite in our EU process is that we strictly reject offers such as privileged partnership or special status. We will not accept anything other than full membership."

Gülpınar underlined that Turkey will not be the side to put an end to the membership process.

"The EU should give a clear message now. We will not give up on this process, but if you are going to, then say it," he said.

Reminding that Austria will be the next term president after Bulgaria, Gülpınar said it may be a much more difficult process with Vienna.

"It is something they will know if they say, 'We end it'," he said.

Ozan Ceyhun, a former deputy at the European Parliament, told Daily Sabah that it is not possible for Turkey to accept an alternative plan as it would mean backtracking from the country's ambition of being a full member of the bloc.

"To start such a negotiation for an alternative plan, the EU firstly should declare that it will not accept Turkey as a full member. But it obviously won't do that, neither will Turkey. None of them want to throw in the towel first in the process," he said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Ankara has no problems with Berlin, Amsterdam or Brussels and there might be official visits to EU member states in the near future as there have been positive signals and easing of strained relations.

"I always say it. Our aim is to minimize enemies and increase friends. We don't have any problems with Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium. Quite the opposite, the leaders there are my old friends," the president told the journalists accompanying him on the presidential plane during his flight from Chad to Tunisia.

His remarks were in response to a question on recent remarks by German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte encouraging positive relations with Turkey.

Rutte said on Dec. 23 that the "cold relations" between the Netherlands and Turkey should be fixed.

"I think it would be good if relations with Turkey improved. Turkey is a NATO partner," he told Dutch daily De Telegraaf in an interview.

The association agreement between the EU and Turkey began in 1963 when Turkey and the European Economic Community (EEC) signed the Ankara Agreement, also known as the Agreement Creating an Association. It is an agreement aimed at Turkey's accession to the EEC and later paved the way for accession talks with the EU.

Ankara applied for EEC membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. However, negotiations hit a stalemate in 2007 because of disagreements on the Cyprus issue. The German and French governments have been opposed to the country's full EU membership.Only 16 policy chapters have been opened out of a total of 35 since negotiations began 54 years ago. The latest, Chapter 33 on financial and budgetary provisions, was opened in recent accession talks.