Erdoğan says EU’s rejection of Turkey for decades ‘unforgivable’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) shakes hands with his Czech counterpart, Petr Necas, on Feb. 4, 2013. (Photo: AA, Kayhan Özer)

February 04, 2013, Monday/ 13:21:00

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has leveled criticisms against the European Union for making his country wait on the bloc’s doorsteps for decades and said the situation is “unforgivable.”

Erdoğan, speaking in a joint news conference with his Czech counterpart, Petr Necas, on Monday, said Ankara is determined to revive Turkey’s EU negotiation talks and he will be paying a visit to Brussels in the near future as part of this effort. He said there are “many things” to talk about the membership talks.

He said it is not even a decade that the Czech Republic was a member of the 27-member club but that Turkey is waiting on the EU’s doorstep for more than 50 years.

“Keeping Turkey busy on the door of the EU is not forgivable,” Erdoğan said. “Why are you making us wait for 54 years?”

Erdoğan claimed that the main cause of keeping Turkey out of the EU is not Turkey’s lack of EU norms but what “they constantly repeat – the Ankara agreement.” He was referring to the additional protocol of the Ankara agreement, signed in 1963, which stipulates that Turkey should open its airspace and ports to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft. Turkey refuses to do so, citing a promise reneged by Brussels that would lift embargo on Turkish Cyprus. Turkey’s non-compliance to the Ankara agreement led Greek Cyprus to block several negotiation chapters with Turkey.

No chapter has been opened for Turkey in two-and-a-half years, exemplifying the listlessness of Turkey-EU relations. In recent talks with officials of Ireland, which is currently the term president of the EU, France indicated that preparations could be started to open two chapters that it is blocking.

Currently, France and Greek Cyprus are blocking the opening of some chapters in the acquis. The completion of some other chapters has also been blocked by the EU Council due to disputes over Cyprus.

The chapters that Ankara gives greatest importance are Chapter 15, dealing with energy, and Chapter 26, related to education and culture, which were blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration. Greek Cyprus is also blocking four other chapters.

The European Commission and the European Parliament, two of the EU's institutions, have already emphasized in their reports on Turkey that the energy chapter has to be opened.

Erdoğan said Turkey’s refusal to comply with its commitments in the Ankara agreement dates back to history, implying the unfair treatment of Turkish Cypriots by the EU.

Erdoğan vowed that Ankara is ready to boost cooperation with the EU and takes simualtenous steps with Brussels to move Turkey’s EU membership bid forward.

Erdoğan also stressed EU’s economic woes and pointed to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan to take the EU membership of his country to a referendum as an indication that the bloc is becoming an undesirable entity. He underlined Turkey’s economic success, recalled the fact that Turkey will finalize its payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by May and that its Central Bank has increased its foreign currency by five fold.

“Even if the EU does not take us in, we want our cooperation to continue,” Erdoğan said, adding that Turkey is already inside the 27-member bloc with its 5 million people.

Reminding recent debates that Turkey is turning its back to the EU and wants to join the Shangai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Erdoğan said the Asian organization is no alternative to the EU and that Turkey is already a dialogue partner of the SCO.

Turkish Foreign Ministry said last week that Turkey wants to become an observer member state of the SCO.

Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005, but progress has been slow since then due to the Cyprus dispute as well as opposition to Turkey's membership by some member countries, including France and Germany. Of the 35 chapters that must be successfully negotiated by any candidate country as a condition for membership, only 13 have been opened by Turkey; 17 have been blocked and four have not yet been opened -- only one is provisionally closed, on science and research. No chapters have been opened since the end of the Spanish presidency in June 2010.

With its close trade and investment links with the EU, Turkey makes a valuable contribution to Europe's competitiveness.