The empowerment of Turkey will lead to the empowerment of Europe and the European Union (EU), said ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Cevdet Yılmaz on Thursday when he met with Turkish journalists in the German capital Berlin.
Expressing expectations from Germany to support the revitalization of relations between Turkey and the EU, Yılmaz said: "A stronger Turkey means a stronger Europe and EU."
Noting the importance of cooperation between political parties in the areas of art, culture and science in addition to the cooperation between governments, Yılmaz said there was a better environment in the meeting with the German side than in previous meetings.
He reiterated that Germany will be the term president of the EU next year and added: "We expect Germany will contribute to the revitalization of relations between Turkey and the EU. They can make contributions, especially to the revision of the customs union and the use of pre-accession assistance funds."
Since Germans mostly focus on the issue of refugees from Syria, Yılmaz said Turkey has reached its maximum capacity and thus EU members should bear responsibility. He also noted the necessity of a political solution in Syria to resolve the refugee crisis.
Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in 2016 to find a solution to the influx of refugees heading to the union. According to the deal, Turkey was promised 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages to finance projects for Syrian refugees. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also promised under the agreement.
The customs union was also to be updated in accordance with the deal. In exchange for these promises by the EU, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrians living in Turkey.
Despite significant developments in the control of migration traffic, the EU could not deliver on its commitments stated in the deal. Speaking to Daily Sabah, Yağmur Poroy, a diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, evaluated the latest situation of the agreement between Turkey and the EU.
She said that Turkey has six criteria to fulfill for the visa liberalization. "Of course, some criteria are more difficult to fulfill than others. However, the fulfillment of these criteria will be easier as long as Turkey succeeds in the fight against terrorism. On the other hand, the EU should provide flexibility to Turkey, considering our country's contribution to the security of the EU with its efforts in the fight against terrorism."
Regulations about combating terrorism are one of six criteria where Turkey needs to make reforms in.
Reiterating the latest efforts of Turkey to speed up reforms for visa liberalization, Poroy said, "It is our responsibility to complete the necessary criteria."
"EU membership remains our strategic foreign policy target. With the visa liberalization provided to our citizens, our country will develop its relations with the EU and get closer to EU membership," she added.
Merkel ally to visit Turkey to discuss EU refugee deal
Germany's interior minister will visit Turkey next week for talks on the EU-Turkey refugee deal, the government announced on Friday.
"Minister [Horst] Seehofer will visit Turkey and Greece on Oct. 3 and 4 for talks with his Turkish and Greek counterparts on the current issues of migration," Bjoern Grunewaelder, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry, told a news conference in Berlin.
He applauded Turkey's hospitality toward Syrian refugees and underlined that talks with Turkish officials would focus on ways to improve the implementation of the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee agreement.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos will join Seehofer during his two-day visit.
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan heavily criticized the EU member states for not fully implementing the refugee deal, and urged them to take genuine steps to share the burden of the refugee crisis.
In 2016, German Chancellor Angela Merkel championed the EU-Turkey refugee agreement with the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees had arrived in Germany.