Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek has said the full membership process to the European Union was Turkey’s most crucial strategic target, while speaking at the High-Level EU-Turkey Economic Dialogue meeting in Istanbul on April 25.
“The full membership process to the EU has been the most important strategic target of Turkey for a long time and will be in the future. Our aim is achieve full EU membership… EU-Turkey relations have seen the strongest momentum now,” he said, as quoted by Reuters.
The EU process is in the interest of Turkey, he noted, adding: “We have a comprehensive reform process, all of which are closely related to our EU membership process.”
Şimşek noted Turkey will increase the quality of its institutions, strengthen the rule of law and complete the approximation process with Europe by running the reform process very well.
He said some deterioration in how Turkey was perceived might have been the case for the last few years due to several geopolitical risks, but the country wants to close any distance with Europe in any field in a bid to strengthen its structure via reforms.
Şimşek also said the Customs Union deal between the EU and Turkey had great potentials to grow much further.
“If we can extend the Customs Union so as to include public acquisitions, public services and the agricultural sector, we can increase the services and trade volume of Turkey with the EU to $300 billion,” he noted.
The head of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, said the EU must offer support to Turkey on the road to becoming a part of the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal between the EU and the U.S.
“It is of great importance for both the Turkish economy and Turkish businesspeople to become a part of the TTIP. The EU must support Turkey in this process,” he said.
Şimşek also said Turkey has been fully complying with the deal with the EU regarding the refugee problem.
“There is a success story here… We have observed a considerable decline in the number of illegal trafficking into Europe,” he added.
Jyrki Katainen, a European Commission vice president, said the migration issue was too much of a challenge for a single state to tackle alone.
“It is an issue that cannot be solved overnight and there is no perfect solution,” he said at the meeting, as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
“If Turkey fulfils all criteria, the EU wants to offer visa liberalization to Turkish nationals. These criteria must be fulfilled by all countries, not [only] by Turkey,” he said.
He said they wanted to see Turkey much closer to them, adding they wanted Turkey to have strong, transparent and democratic institutions, show respect to the rule of law and fundamental human rights and see further economic modernization through a number of reforms.
EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Johannes Hahn said Turkey would attract more foreign investment by taking steps on the road to democratization and freedoms, adding that Turkey’s membership process to the EU showed momentum after the summit on March 18.