by DAILY SABAH
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (L) and his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Menko meet in the capital Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 3, 2021. (AA Photo)
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Wednesday that the membership of the European Union is the strategic target for Turkey and all actors should acknowledge that.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Benko in Budapest, Akar said that Turkey places great importance on its bilateral relations with Hungary.
“It is possible to say that (our relations) will develop further in the following period within the context of decisions taken. We think that the cooperation between the two countries on the issues of defense and security will not only contribute to the two countries but also to the region as a whole, particularly Europe and NATO,” he said.
Benko, for his part, said that Turkey has made great contributions to Europe and Hungary by hosting nearly 4 million migrants within its soils and thanked Akar, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government for that.
In recent months, Ankara has frequently reiterated that Turkey prioritizes the EU in its agenda and sees its future in Europe. Turkey hopes to start afresh with the bloc in the new year, Erdoğan had said in a statement, adding that interactions with the EU in 2020 were unproductive due to the artificial problems created by certain EU members.
Turkey’s EU accession process needs to be revived, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said last month after attending a series of closed-door meetings with European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, Vice President Margaritis Schinas and other officials in Brussels.
Turkey signed a deal with Brussels in 2016 to reduce the influx of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe. Under the deal, Turkey was promised 6 billion euros ($6.77 billion) in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian migrants. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also a perk of the agreement, and the customs union was to be updated.
In exchange, Turkey agreed to discourage migrants from entering Europe via the Aegean Sea by cracking down on human traffickers and improving the living conditions of Syrian migrants living in Turkey. Despite Turkey significantly curbing migration traffic to Europe, the EU has not kept its side of the deal.