The normalization process between Ankara and some European Union member states seems to be working, a high-level EU official said.
"Turkey reaching out to Germany and Austria is working well. The relationship efforts are paying off" the high-level official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media. Ankara has been trying to mend marred ties with some EU member states after relations hit rock bottom last year when there were elections in Germany and Austria and a referendum in Turkey. The elections in the Netherlands also greatly dented ties.
While Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel several times in Turkey and Germany to discuss the normalization process, he also received Austrian Foreign Minister Katrin Kneissl and visited Austria. All sides have already expressed their willingness to turn a new page in relations and start a new era.
Explaining that Ankara and Brussels have problems in different areas, the official asserted that the two are working quite well on foreign policy, security and the joint fight against terrorism. As Ankara gradually moves forward with the normalization process, the upcoming EU leaders' summit in Varna, Bulgaria on March 26 is expected to further galvanize ties.
However, the official remained cautious about the outcomes of the upcoming summit: "Varna will not solve everything but it is indeed an important step."
PRIVILEGED PARTNERSHIP NOT AN OPTION FOR BRUSSELS
A privileged partnership with Turkey has recently been discussed by some politicians in the EU and media. Outgoing German Foreign Minister Gabriel said in recent months 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.
Gabriel presumed that such a model could lead to a "new, closer form of customs union" between Turkey and the EU. The official, however, ruled out the possibility of negotiating a privileged partnership with Ankara. "It is not the aim," the official said, adding that Turkey is a candidate country for full membership and will remain so. Yet, the official continued that the EU would not move forward with Ankara's accession process anyway for the time being.
NATURAL RESOURCES SHOULD BENEFIT ALL IN MEDITERRANEAN
Relations between Turkey and Greece have strained to a great extent in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. The two countries came head to head earlier this month when Turkish warships blocked an Italian oil rig from reaching a natural gas exploration zone off Greek Cyprus, which was followed by a Foreign Ministry statement accusing Greek Cyprus of jeopardizing regional security and stability.
Turkey opposes the drilling before a permanent solution is found for the divided island, which it says disregards the rights of Turkish Cypriots. In light of the events in the Mediterranean, the official said that natural resources in the area "should benefit all sides." The official also said that all issues "should be handled peacefully and in a friendly manner."