As Turkey and the European Union are looking to turn a new page in ties, Ankara says that the number of EU member countries in solidarity with Turkey is higher than those opposing it. Speaking to lawmakers in Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said: "Turkey has more friends in the EU who understand the significance of Turkey and stand in solidarity with it than those opposing to Turkey." He also called on the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to enhance cooperation with these countries.
Underlining the significance of the Turkey-EU summit last week in Varna, Bulgaria, Çelik said that after the meeting the sides need to work on the future steps.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the EU leaders met in Varna on March 26 in order to discuss the problems lying ahead of the two sides.
In a press conference after the summit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was against the "simple, superficial" idea of cutting Turkey's accession negotiations to the EU, assuring that "I, myself, guarantee that Turkey's EU accession talks will continue" despite calls by some to end them. He was referring to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who had earlier called on Brussels to end negotiations with Turkey.
Erdoğan also said that it would be a big mistake to leave Turkey out of the EU's enlargement process.
Touching on Kurz's remarks calling on to freeze Turkey's negotiation talks prior to the Varna summit, Çelik said that Austria's stance has turned hostile and added: "Turkey's aim is full membership. I would like to reiterate that we will not accept any other project rather than the full membership."
In the Varna summit, the sides held talks on key issues, such as upgrading the customs union, EU's fund to refugees in Turkey and visa liberalization.
Çelik said they have already discussed the proposal of visa-free travel with European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and added that "they will send a technical delegation to Turkey this month."
The upgrading of the customs union is also one of Ankara's expectations of the EU. While the EU has been sluggish to take any steps, Ankara has been stressing that the upgrading of the deal will be for the benefit of both sides.
Referring to the issue, Çelik said "the technical issue has become a political one" and that the EU would be conflicting itself if the customs union was not upgraded.
Within the framework of the deal, signed on March 18, 2016, with the EU, Turkey expects the 28-nation bloc to fulfill its promises. The deal aiming to stem irregular migration over the Aegean Sea is considered to be successful as the irregular transitions have been substantially reduced.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen zone, on the condition that Ankara meets all 72 requirements set by the EU.
As Turkey has been acting in line with the agreement and hosting over 3.5 million refugees, it stresses that EU should not shirk its responsibilities and accelerate efforts to transfer fund for the refugees it had promised.
In relation to the issue, Çelik said that in order to meet the immediate needs in the field of education and health the fund by the EU should be directly transferred, not via projects. Reminding that Turkey has been providing education to 400,000 Syrian children, Çelik pointed out that EU needs to lend more support.
Highlighting the significance of the March 18-deal with the EU, Çelik said Turkey has prevented the deaths in the sea and also saved EU from an immigration crisis.