‘Turkey, EU ties must be strengthened in new period’

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ANKARA: Relations between the European Union and Turkey must be strengthened in the new period amid the COVID-19 pandemic and structural problems in the international system, Economic Development Foundation (IKV) Chairperson Ayhan Zeytinoğlu said.

Speaking on Thursday’s meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and EU ambassadors in Ankara, Zeytinoğlu said that accession to the bloc remains a priority.

“In this process, where some circles are looking for an alternative to EU membership, it is extremely important to confirm the commitment to the goal of full membership at the highest level. The statement, ‘Turkey, which is a part of the European Continent geographically, historically and humanly, is of course bound to the goal of EU full membership’ shows that Turkey has remained determined toward its goal since 1959 when the partnership application was first made,” he said

Zeytinoğlu drew attention to the need to continue reforms in line with the membership goal, without giving credit to the unfair and prejudiced approaches of some member states and circles in the EU.

Expressing that it is Turkey’s right to expect sincere, fair and tenacious loyalty from the EU, Zeytinoğlu said that the problems, security risks and conflict areas around the world and especially in Europe are indispensable for Turkey and the EU’s cooperation in the field of foreign policy and security.

Turkey-EU relations have been marked by disputes on several issues, including tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey’s role in Syria, the migrant crisis and the stalemate in Turkey’s accession process to join the bloc.

Turkey has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor in 1964, the European Economic Community (EEC), which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Turkey had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Turkey had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates. -Agencies