Bryza: Refugee crisis most important factor in Turkey-EU relations
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct. 19
By Anakhanum Khidayatova - Trend:
The refugee crisis is the most important factor in relations between Turkey and the EU, says Matthew Bryza, former US assistant secretary for South Caucasus, former US ambassador to Azerbaijan, and director of International Centre for Defense Studies, based in Tallinn, Estonia.
"The key issue is how Turkey-EU relations will change after the refugee crisis, which is so huge that it is going to dominate every aspect of Turkey-EU relations," Bryza exclusively told Trend Oct. 19.
He said Europe is desperate and wants Ankara to keep Syrian refugees, to enforce Turkey's border control, and not let the refugees go to Greece.
Since early 2015, over 340,000 illegal immigrants entered the EU, and their number is growing daily by several thousands.
Bryza further said the EU is trying to reach an agreement, under which it would have a right to return the Syrian refugees to Turkey.
He added that Turkey puts its own conditions and demands to introduce a visa-free regime with the EU for its citizens.
Bryza also noted that until recently Europe has been very critical of the domestic situation in Turkey.
He said the refugee issue is making Europeans turn another way, and not worry about the domestic situation in Turkey.
"They do a progress report every year on the [EU] membership, and it is going to be very critical, so EU has decided to postpone that report for a while," he further said.
Bryza noted that today there are perspectives for significant improvement in Turkey-EU relations, but not for Turkish membership in the EU.
"It is strategically wise for Europe to keep doors open for Turkey, for its full membership, that motivates Turkey to implement the reforms," he said, further noting that Turkey's trying to become a EU member will make it a better country.
"The relations between Turkey and the EU in the recent years have become so poor that Chancellor [Angela] Merkel says there is no chance for Turkey to become a member, there is a chance for Turkey to have a privilege partnership," Bryza noted. "Generally, Turks are not interested in the EU membership, what Turks are interested in is their pride; they don't want to be told they can't become a member; they don't want to change either."
Ankara applied for EU membership in 1987, and negotiations on Turkey's accession started in 2005.
Since then, the parties have agreed on 14 out of 35 technical points that Ankara must fulfil to achieve the standards required for EU membership.
Earlier during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed hope that Turkish citizens will be able to visit the Schengen countries without a visa starting from July 2016.
Davutoglu said Turkey also expects that it will soon take a place in "the EU's family photo."
Merkel said for her part that Germany will contribute to accelerate Turkey's transition to the visa-free regime, but the EU also has expectations from Ankara with regard to the refugees.
Earlier, Davutoglu said Ankara links the agreement on return of refugees from the EU to Turkey with the transition to a visa-free regime for Turkish citizens.
Edited by CN
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