EU constitutes Turkey's 'most important partner'
It is in the economic, political and strategic interests of both the European Union and Turkey to advance their relationship, says Manolis Kefalogiannis.
Turkey is an important partner for Europe and the EU constitutes Turkey's most important partner and an anchor of stability, an anchor of economic and political reforms.
This is exactly the message we conveyed to the Turkish leadership, particularly to president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during our recent visit to Ankara in mid-March both with a delegation of the European parliament's committee on foreign affairs and during the plenary session of the joint EU-Turkey parliamentary committee.
In our discussions with Turkish officials, as well as with representatives of the opposition parties and representatives of civil society, we discussed all topics of the accession process. In all the meetings it was evident to both sides that it is in the interest of both the EU and Turkey to advance our relationship.
"If Turkey genuinely aspires to join the EU, renewing its determination on the accession process is a strategic imperative. Concrete actions are required"
Cooperating on counterterrorism and immigration, particularly in light of the security developments in the Middle East and the turmoil in Syria and Iraq which threatens both the EU’s and Turkey’s security, and collaborating on energy security, are just two fields where we can work further together.
It is surely in our interest to have a democratic, European Turkey in our neighbourhood, as a partner. Turkey has now been a candidate country for EU accession for a decade and the country did make significant efforts to come closer to Europe.
Unfortunately, though, in recent years much of Turkey's democratic progress has been reversed. If Turkey genuinely aspires to join the EU, renewing its determination on the accession process is a strategic imperative. Concrete actions are required.
Strengthening the rule of law, protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of the media, ensuring religious freedom - through for example the reopening of the Halki seminary - strengthening judicial independence, and aligning its foreign policy with that of the EU are key areas for action.
There must also be a commitment to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes, as well as the signing and ratifying of the UN convention on the law of the sea. These are Turkey's obligations as a candidate country and undeniable preconditions for EU membership.
Actions such as the government's response to allegations of corruption targeting high-level personalities, including members of the government, police raids and massive arrests of journalists and media representatives and threats and actions directed against member states are not in line with Turkey's aspirations of joining the EU and have certainly raised serious concerns in the European parliament.
In today's world, neither political nor economic stability can be taken for granted. Under these circumstances, strengthening our relations to fully exploit the economic, political and strategic benefits should remain in the mutual interest of both the EU and Turkey.
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