“The picture in the aftermath of the referendum shows Turkey’s democratic strength. This should be well read. We are a country under threat from terrorism. We escaped from a coup attempt. But against all these risks I’m now in Brussels and call on my counterparts to open chapters 23 and 24,” EU Minister Ömer Çelik told reporters after speaking with the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Affairs Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn in Brussels.
“Turkey has democratic self-confidence and believes we are in a period where we should intensify our relationship,” added Çelik.
He was the first Turkish official to visit Brussels in many months, after the relationship was strained during Turkey’s pre-referendum campaign. The climate between Ankaraand Brussels has somewhat softened in the post-referendum period, with statements from top EU and Turkish officials suggesting the continuation of cooperation and dialogue.
Çelik claimed that Ankara’s compliance with the Copenhagen criteria is even better than some member countries and it will not accept a de facto suspension of the accession process.
“Freedom of the media and independence of the judiciary are issues [criticized by the EU]. Chapters 23 and 24 are core chapters that correspond to the core of these issues. So let’s open them and discuss together. If you attach importance to Turkish democracy, then you should open chapters,” he said.
Chapters 23 and 24, which regulate Turkey’s harmonization of its acquis and implementations on fundamental rights and the judiciary with that of the EU are currently under blockage from Cyprus.
Furthermore, EU leaders have announced that they will not work to open any chapter with Turkey until it re-launches a fresh campaign for democratization of the country.
Customs union should be upgraded
Çelik cited cooperation in the field of migrant and anti-terror as well as upgrading the customs union as three important issues that Turkey and the EU could focus on in the short-term, recalling that there was preparation for a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the end of May.
“We want this process [of upgrading the customs union] to begin as soon as possible,” Çelik said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a written statement on the Europe Day, May 9, underlining that becoming a member of the EU remains a strategic target for Turkey, which wants to continue its membership bid on a win-win basis.