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'Turkey is determined to press ahead on EU reforms'12 January 2021

With the fates of Turkey and EU tied closely together, Turkish foreign minister tells EU envoys he expects bloc's support

Turkey is determined to press ahead on EU accession reforms, the country's foreign minister told a group of diplomats from the bloc on Tuesday.

"We are determined [to apply the] reform agenda," Mevlut Cavusoglu told the EU member state ambassadors, meeting at the official Cankaya Palace in the capital Ankara.

"The EU should not hinder but give support to us," he added.

Saying that the bloc and Turkey are tied closely, he explained: "Turkey is in Europe, and Europe is part of our destiny. The same thing applies to Europe."

Turkey, an EU candidate country since 2005, plays a large role in the security of Syria and Libya plus the Caucasus, Balkans, Middle East, and Black Sea regions, and also has a key part in migration, energy, trade, supply chains, transportation, communication, security, counter-terrorism, NATO, and defense, he stressed.

"All these issues are vital for both the security and prosperity of Europe. If we act together, we can make significant changes in all areas. As Turkey, we are ready for this partnership," he said.

Unfortunately, he said, the desired cooperation between Turkey and the EU had failed to materialize over the years due to some bilateral issues that remained unsolved, and this was also a loss for Europe.

Cavusoglu said they have repeatedly urged the use of dialogue to solve these bilateral issues, and in this process, they expect progress in concrete areas in relations with the EU.

"Turkey is dependent on the EU accession process. If we find a positive response from the EU, we also show the necessary will," he said.

EU-Turkey relations have experienced political difficulties over the past few years despite their similarities, Cavusoglu said, adding that this trend had also continued last year.

Cavusoglu pointed out that the problems had emerged because some of the bloc's members who had issues with Turkey transferred these issues to the union.

"They tried to set the EU against Turkey," Cavusoglu said.

Referring to a recent EU summit in October, Cavusoglu said the threatening language used against Turkey there had been the final straw and that Ankara had responded accordingly.

He asserted that the events that followed the October summit had showed that threatening language and escalation did not benefit anyone, noting that the EU side had adopted more reasonable discourse at a later summit in December.

Cavusoglu added that though there were parts of the EU's December declaration that they did not approve of, many EU states acted sensibly because they were aware of Turkey's importance.

"We responded well to this outreach. The president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] announced a new beginning in relations with the EU. We said that we saw our future in the EU and that we want to build this future together," he said.


Turkey's 2021 expectations of the EU

Ankara has made clear its determination to introduce reforms, Cavusoglu said, underlining that Turkey hoped that this year with the EU, they could step up cooperation, as well as renew confidence and build win-win situations.

He said Turkey had concrete expectations from the EU in 2021, including for talks on updating the Customs Union, visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, fulfilling the 2016 migration agreement, updating cooperation on migration, initiating high-level dialogue, progressing in membership talks and cooperating in security and counterterrorism.

Cavusoglu noted that he would pay a visit to Brussels on Jan. 21, followed by a later meeting with his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias.

He also added that work was ongoing for a roadmap to normalize and then advance relations with France.

Despite its EU candidate status, Turkey's progress towards accession has been stalled for years.

After a year of ups and downs, including a push by some EU member states to impose sanctions on Turkey over bilateral issues, Turkish leaders have said they hope for progress in ties with the bloc this year, and expect the EU to take steps towards this end.

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