Turkey's path toward European Union membership is not a matter of "blind love," the nation's top diplomat in charge of relations with the bloc said Tuesday.
Saying that Turkey's goal to join the EU "is a matter of interest and sovereignty," Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakcı added that joining is not an option but a necessity.
If Turkey aims to protect its sovereignty and interests at a higher level, it can do so by becoming a member of the EU and by being part of the decision-making mechanism, he told a virtual meeting hosted in Konya, central Turkey.
"Turkey wants to become a full member of the EU. This is important to us," he stressed.
Noting that Turkey boasts one of the largest economies in Europe, with a significant historical and geographical background, Kaymakcı said: "We have to be in this decision-making process. For us, it's not an option, it's a necessity."
After some major disagreements in recent years, both the EU and Turkey have voiced their intentions last year to set a positive agenda, yet further efforts and actions are needed. Turkey has reiterated that it is part of Europe and sees its future in the EU, adding that it will continue to work toward full membership. Turkish officials have also said that they hope for progress and expect the bloc to take definitive action to this end.
European Union leaders said the bloc is ready to support a concrete and positive agenda with Turkey, especially in the areas of economic cooperation and migration, after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Ankara to discuss bilateral ties and seek a way forward after tensions rose high last year.
Turkey and the EU in March 2016 signed a refugee deal that aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Turkey has said falling numbers of migrant crossings show it upheld its part of the deal, but the EU failed to keep its half, including visa liberalization and financial aid for refugees.
Turkey has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), 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, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates. Since then, the process seems to have stalled.