Turkish people will have last word in country's joining EU: head of talks on Turkey's joining EU (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 21 / Trend , R.Hafizoglu /
State Minister and head of delegation for negotiations on Turkey's joining the EU, Egemen Bahish spoke with Trend Middle East desk' in an exclusive interview.
Trend : Despite the implementation of a number of reforms for Turkey's full membership to the European Union, the country still fails to join the organization. Why can not the issue of Turkey's joining the EU find its solutions despite realization of these reforms?
Egemen Bahish: Relations and cooperation between Turkey and the EU began with the signing of an agreement in 1964 in Ankara. Despite that after signing the agreement, calmness appeared in the relations between Turkey and the EU, the agreement was able to maintain its status. In fact, today's rapprochement between Turkey and the EU should be evaluated as a historic chance. And developing and gaining new borders, admitting Turkey, the EU can become a world force. EU's admitting Turkey, 99 percent of which population is Muslims, could become an example of creation of an inter-cultural union. There is no state, which began negotiations and did not bring them to the end. An example of this can be Malta, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Romania, which after negotiations could become full-right EU members. Turkey also can be one of such states. Another example is France's imposing a veto for EU membership of Britain. Now Britain is an example for countries that want to join the EU. For example, after the completion of negotiations on entrance to the EU, Norwegian citizens opposed against joining the Union and as a result, despite that the Scandinavian country fully complies with the European standards, it refused membership.
It would be wrong to too early predict how these negotiations will conclude for Turkey. It is all the same, whenever the negotiations on Turkey's entrance to the EU will be completed. And after completion of negotiations, both Turkey and the EU will be at different levels and those who have a certain weight in this matter will say the last word. Currently it would be naive to express any opinion about Turkey's membership to the EU and on the Union's attitude towards Turkey.
Turkey needs to achieve its basic goal, and it is to bring the country up to European standards. Sooner or later we must come closer to European standards.
Turkish government believes that under the leadership of Prime Minister, Turkey becomes more democratic and more legal state. The Constitution of Turkey and the EU legislation largely coincide, particularly in the issue of democracy and human freedom. For this reason, EU membership is very important for Turkey. Unfortunately, at present, there are forces in Turkey, which do not want country's entrance to the Union. I believe that time is coming and our brothers, who are against negotiations with the EU, will support us in this matter, taking into consideration modern, democratic Turkey that was Ataturk's goal.
I want to bring to your attention the EU report, which was published recently with regards to Turkey. The report reflects the attitude of the intellectuals of the European Union. Based on the report, it is visible that in Europe there are forces that want Turkey's entrance to the EU. I am sure that their number will soon exceed the number of others. In fact, this report is a signal for the EU. Attitudes towards Turkey in the EU contradict the basic principles of the Union. Citizens of Europe support the governance of European countries in accordance with true democracy and legal values.
Discussions about Turkey's entrance to the European Union are on the focus of attention of one and a half billion Islamic world as well as the whole world. Sensible representatives of Europe believe that Turkey is the subject of examination for the EU before the world.
I think that we will see similar reports from the EU member countries. We are closely following the events. In addition, it is important that Turkish community and the opponents of EU membership of Turkey pay attention to the EU statements. As I said earlier, unfortunately in Turkey there are opponents of the EU, and in Europe there are forces that act against Turkey. Only one thing can be told both sides: justice, truth and right demand the reunification of Turkey and the EU.
We must not forget that, regardless of political demands, discussions are a long-term political process. During the negotiations, Turkey will fulfill its obligations. Our main goal is equal membership and we are stubbornly going through this path.
In this regard, we rely on our people and country. I would like to note that the EU has its obligations. Termination of the negotiations without any reason at all can adversely affect the EU countries and the very Turkey. I do not believe that these discussions will remain incomplete without a serious reason.
Q: Although Turkey, thanks to its foreign policy and military capability, is one of the leading countries in the Middle East, she drives for joining the EU. As to you, what will the membership in the EU give to Turkey and will it separate Turkey from the Middle East?
A: Turkey is the country that can unite with Europe and at the same time the country with an ancient history and rich culture. Our country is not only a bridge between cultural heritage of India, China and Europe, but also a cultural center where they intersect and synthesize. Turkey is the country that supports and promotes freedom of thought and will, as well as discusses any topic. Further, there are different cultures and points of view in Turkey.
By just being such a country, Turkey can enrich the culture of the EU countries. Turkey is a part of the European culture. We want to see Turkey, which by its unification with Europe would benefit the culture of all mankind.
I would like to note that Turkey's membership in the EU is very important in the term of unification of cultures.
However, the EU and the Turkish people will have the last word in this issue. As I said earlier, Turkey's membership in the EU will benefit both Turkey and the EU members.
In fact, Turkey's membership in the EU is not only a part of the country's foreign policy, but at the same time, a part of the project on Turkey's uniting the international environment over the past 200 years. This project is a process of modernization of Turkey.
Turkey's linkages with the Balkan countries, Middle East, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia will serve the development of democracy and respect for human rights in these regions.
It must be borne in mind that during the struggle for energy resources around the world, Turkey is a bridge for the delivery of gas and oil to the European markets.
Different projects, led by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, ensure the uninterrupted energy supply to Europe. For example, the Nabucco project is realized with the help of Turkey. This project is very important. The Nabucco project not only provides energy to Europe, but also acts as a guarantor of stability and peace.
Naturally, the foreign policy of Turkey is not limited only by the desire to join the EU. We try to implement other projects aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the region and all over the world.
We intend to continue to fulfill our responsibilities, acting as intermediaries between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Israel and Syria, Russia and Georgia to create intercultural dialogue.
We believe that Turkey's membership will facilitate the establishment of more productive relations with all countries of the region, and will help implement intercultural dialogue.
Q: If Turkey is not accepted into the EU as a full member, will Ankara try to establish any alternative organization?
A: Ankara is seeking to join the European Union for a long time. One reason for the establishment of the republic was a desire to use the international relations in all fields. That is why, since the day of the establishment, the Turkish Republic has undertaken reforms in many political and economic fields. We consider the agreement, signed in 1963 between Turkey and the EU in Ankara as a promising step. A new page in Turkey's relations with the EU was nominating the country at the Helsinki summit in 1999. Finally, on Dec. 17, 2004 the EU decided that Turkey is successfully dealing with the implementation of political criteria. Also, on Oct. 3, the Intergovernmental Conference in Luxembourg decided to start the negotiations on Turkey's full membership in the EU. So far, 11 stages of the negotiations have been held and work in this direction is underway. Given all this, I would say that there are serious obstacles for Turkey's joining the EU. I think that when the time comes, the European Union and Turkey will make the right decisions.
I would like to note that not only Turkey needs the EU, and the European Union is also interested in Turkey's membership.
Unfortunately, in Europe, there are people who do not understand, or rather do not want to understand this reality. People who do not see Turkey in the EU argue it with a big contrast to the religion and culture, but they forget about the 15 million Muslims living in Europe.
Turkey has chosen a policy of harmonizing their Islamic traditions with the world's democratic values. We have shown that a country whose population is majority Muslim, can steer a course to the west and unite with it. All groups, based on religious principles, must remain in history. In the XXI century, the religion should not serve the political and geographical division, but unification.
As the head of the delegation, holding the negotiations on Turkey's EU membership, I can say that instead of creating new and different alternative, it is preferable to proceed on the basis of the agreement, signed between the EU and Turkey in 1963. I believe that it will yield a fruit sooner or later.
Q: How do you assess chances of Azerbaijan's and other South Caucasus countries' membership in the European Union and the EU policy towards these countries?
A: You know, since April 1996, the EU pursues a policy of rapprochement with the South Caucasus, particularly with Azerbaijan. We must not forget that the expansion of the borders along with creating new opportunities entails new challenges. Regarding all this and the Neighborhood Policy, the EU pursues this policy toward Azerbaijan and other countries.
Turkey, a country aspiring to join the EU, supports the development of relations between the EU and friendly Azerbaijan, and all the South Caucasus.
Steps to ensure security of energy resources is important for Turkey and the EU, as well as Azerbaijan.
The fact that Azerbaijan is an oil and gas supplier, gradually strengthens the EU's desire to accept Azerbaijan.
On the other hand, we see Azerbaijan as a country adhering to the basic values of Europe, built on the principles of democracy, human rights and supremacy of law. If Turkey becomes a full member of the EU, from a strategic point of view, Azerbaijan's and other Caucasus countries' membership in the EU can be very useful, given the cultural and geographical differences.
But joining the EU should be only after the decision and the choice of the Azerbaijani people. If Azerbaijan puts forward its candidacy for the EU membership, Turkey in this matter will fully support Azerbaijan and is ready to share its experiences.