With the obstacles caused by the coronavirus outbreak gradually diminishing, Turkey expects an improvement in relations with the European Union, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Cevdet Yılmaz said while urging for institutional dialogue between the sides.
Speaking in an online event organized by the AK Party's Berlin agency on Monday, Yılmaz, who is responsible for the foreign affairs of the party, portrayed Turkey's expectations from the union while underlining the country's desire to have close ties with the EU.
"We have started to reform our justice system. We have gained momentum in our fight against terrorist groups such as the PKK, Daesh and FETÖ (Gülenist Terror Group) and now, we (as Turkey) feel relatively more secure. The aim of our government and the desire of Turkish people is to strengthen our democratic standards," Yılmaz said.
Criticizing the EU for hesitating to negotiate on certain subjects, such as the Turkish justice system, Yılmaz said some members of the union both denounce the country's justice system and when it is reformed, also refuse to negotiate over it, which does not make sense. Calling for institutional dialogue, Yılmaz said that such improvement in ties would also encourage Turkey's reform process.
Yılmaz expressed similar expectations for the modernization of the customs union deal, saying that "without negotiations, there cannot be any solutions to the problems."
Targeting the ones in Europe who want to put an end to the negotiations with Turkey as a whole, Yılmaz said this would not be a smart move for the union.
"This is not a reasonable policy. You might have some criticisms toward Turkey. There can be some problems in Turkey just like many other countries. However, I believe that our problems have been exaggerated in the international media, in European media, for different reasons," he said.
Defending "new momentum in economic and social activities amid the normalization process," Yılmaz underscored that Turkey and Germany's multiverse ties and cooperation over regional problems should also improve, referring to the country's EU term presidency.
The other two speakers at the event were the foreign policy spokesman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CDU/CSU) Jürgen Hardt and Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)'s foreign policy spokesperson Nils Schmid.
Regarding ties with the EU, Schmid said that although he is in favor of Turkey's EU membership aim, the "already lost bilateral trust" between the sides should be rebuilt first to engage in such a process once again.
Hardt, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of judicial independence for the EU and said that the union has some concerns in this respect when it comes to Turkey.
Turkey has a long history with the bloc and a long process of negotiations. The country signed an association agreement with the EU in 1964, which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually become a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, the country had to wait for another six years, until 2005, having a uniquely long process compared with other applicants. But negotiations were stalled in 2007 due to objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France. Since then, the ties between the two have continued with lots of ups and downs.
During this process, Turkish officials have criticized the European Union for a number of factors, including the bloc’s indifference to Turkey’s anti-terrorism operations, a lack of solidarity following the deadly FETÖ-led coup attempt in 2016, the lack of outside assistance on the migration issue and the bloc’s failure to adhere to agreements. In 2018, the EU took a radical decision and said that no new chapters in Turkey's accession talks would be opened or closed. However, this decision did not end Turkey's ambition to join the bloc, as the country has been preparing a new initiative to accelerate the accession process to the EU since then.
According to Engin Eroğlu, who is a European Parliament (EP) deputy of Turkish descent, stronger ties with Turkey would improve wealth in both Turkey and the EU itself.
"Cooperation with Turkey will increase the wealth of both Turkey and the union," he told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Elected from the Freie Waehler (Free Voters) party last year, Eroğlu stated that he hopes for more intense and developed relations between Turkey and the EU, adding that the removal of obstacles such as customs and travel restrictions would contribute to the improvement of the ties.
"I believe that bringing EP deputies together with Turkish deputies on different levels would make them closer to each other," he said, indicating that having parliamentary ties alone would not be enough to build bridges between the two sides.