While describing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent visit to Brussels as "extremely successful," EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said EU membership is an "indispensable goal" for Turkey, despite certain flaws and mutual resentments, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Ahead of the visit, some suggested that Turkey's EU membership negotiations would be halted and that both Erdoğan and Turkey would receive very harsh warnings, "but today, Turkey is a very important country for the European Union," Çavuşoğlu said on Jan. 23.
"The European Union is also an indispensable process and goal. So, as long as this understanding prevails on both sides, sometimes there may be problems and sometimes flaws and sometimes we may have mutual resentments. It may be within the family and it may be within the party but what matters is not diverging from this goal, and definitely not taking a step backwards from this goal," he said.
Çavuşoğlu was speaking at a ceremony at the AKP headquarters where he handed over his post as the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) deputy chair in charge of external affairs to Yasin Aktay, an academic who is member of the AKP's Central Executive Board (MYK) and Central Decision and Executive Council (MKYK).
The Jan. 21 visit to Brussels was the first visit to the EU capital by Erdoğan in five years, and he faced sharp criticism from EU leaders over a recent crackdown on the judiciary and police that has rattled investors.
For his part, Aktay agreed that the EU was "not a dispensable direction" for Turkey, but also added that Ankara could also consider other choices. These should not be assumed as an alternative to EU membership, but could be regarded as a choice "in addition to EU membership," he said.
Çavuşoğlu, a former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said his impressions while holding bilateral meetings in Brussels on Dec. 22 had strengthened his view that Erdoğan's one-day trip to Brussels on Dec. 21 had been "extremely successful."
"As emphasized there by our European friends, we need to further intensify our visits at this level and our dialogue. We saw in the presence of the European Union that such a yearning exists," he said.
Erdoğan has purged hundreds of police and moved to impose tighter control on the courts in response to a corruption inquiry that has rocked his conservative AKP, which has been in power for more than a decade.
Even as Erdoğan met officials in Brussels, his government launched another wave of dismissals of judges and prosecutors.
The crackdown has soured ties with the EU at a time when Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the 28-nation bloc had appeared to be regaining some momentum.