President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the European Union for “injustices” while highlighting that Turkey’s accession continues to be Ankara’s priority as he called on the bloc to take a more courageous stance on efforts to improve bilateral ties.
Speaking to ambassadors of the bloc in the capital Ankara on Thursday, Erdoğan said he has personally witnessed the attempts to block Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
“Turkey, which is geographically and historically a part of Europe, is committed to its target of becoming a member,” the president said, adding that accession is a priority for Ankara, despite all the “injustices.”
Erdoğan noted that Turkey continues to exert efforts and added that he hopes the bloc rids itself of what he called “strategic blindness” and acts more courageously on developing relations with Ankara.
Highlighting Turkey’s critical role as a problem solver in important issues, Erdoğan criticized the bloc for embracing a destructive stance rather than dialogue and diplomacy to enhance relations.
“They have used the delaying tactic against us in many issues, including the customs union,” the president said, noting that the bloc has ultimately prioritized the interests of some members over the benefit of the EU as a whole.
“What really needs to be considered is the fact that the bloc’s will has been taken captive by a few states,” he said. Without naming any countries, Erdoğan said some EU member states need to stop trying to solve their problems with Ankara via the bloc.
“The EU needs to prevent attempts to sabotage Turkey-EU relations with the excuse of inter-bloc solidarity,” he added.
Turkey-EU relations are marked by disputes on several issues, including tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey's role in Syria, the migrant crisis and the stalemate in Turkey's accession process to join the bloc. During a meeting in Brussels on Dec. 10, 2020, EU leaders decided to draw up a list of Turkish targets to sanction. But since then, the rhetoric on all sides has mellowed dramatically as Turkey and the bloc voiced their intent to "turn a new page.”
Regarding the migration crisis, which is one of the issues of contention in the region, Erdoğan said Turkey is a key player and that the migrant pressure will not subside unless the crises around Turkey and Europe are managed.
“Europe would have been facing a completely different picture if it wasn’t for Turkey’s tremendous efforts,” Erdoğan said, referring to Turkey’s handling of the migrant wave from Syria. He continued by criticizing the bloc for failing to provide necessary assistance.
“Turkey’s expectation from EU is about fairly sharing the burden and responsibilities regarding the migrant crisis,” Erdoğan said.
The president continued by saying that it is necessary to end pushbacks and illegal practices against irregular migrants immediately.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal has been successful in stemming the flow of migrants and refugees, but the EU’s reluctance to take in refugees from Turkey, and bureaucratic hurdles in transferring promised funds for refugees, have led to sharp criticism from Turkish politicians.
Ankara criticized the EU for failing to fulfill its commitments and pledges to provide funding for migrants and refugees in Turkey as part of the pact while allocating billions of euros to Greece.
The pact is failing as Turkey struggles with increased numbers of migrants, while the EU is more divided than ever over its asylum policy.
Regarding the bloc’s policies on Cyprus, Erdoğan said the EU needs to fulfill its pledges made in 2004 and adopt a neutral stance.
He continued by calling on the bloc to stop "acting like spokespersons of the Greek Cypriots" and ignoring the rights of Turkish Cypriots on the island.
The island of Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Five decades of Cyprus talks have yielded no results.
The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced the Turkish Cypriots to retreat into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece's annexation led to Turkey's military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the EU in 2004, although in a referendum that year most Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations settlement plan that envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the bloc.