Turkey's EU accession top priority for EU officials

The EU foreign policy chief said that the main priority of their visit to Turkey will be Turkey's accession EU saying support for Turkey is over 50%

Turkey's EU accession top priority for EU officials
World Bulletin/News Desk

Turkey's European Union accession process will be the EU Commission's top priority during their visit to Turkey, the EU’s foreign policy chief said over the weekend.

The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, spoke to The Anadolu Agency before her Monday visit to Turkey.

Mogherini said her visit will accelerate relations between Turkey and the EU as well as signify a fresh start to the "strategically important" bilateral relations between Turkey and the EU.

"Our top priority will be Turkey's EU accession process," Mogherini said. "We aim to work with Turkish government officials to give the process a concrete step and move forward."

Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn and European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides as well as Mogherini herself will visit Ankara on Monday.

They will hold a quartet meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir.

Hahn and Stylianides will also head to Turkey's southeastern province of Gaziantep, where more than 33,000 Syrian refugees have taken shelter in four different camps.

Mogherini also underscored that Turkey and EU relations are "critical" in terms of the region's security and stability.

"We are both concerned about the Mediterranean and Middle East region. Because of Turkey's G20 term presidency, they and the EU need to act together during the peace process in Syria and the Middle East," Mogherini said. "The EU realizes that Turkey has a critical role in the region and will work accordingly to provide peace and stability there."

The G20 summit, which is a forum of the world's richest nations, brings together political and economic leaders from 20 major economies, including 19 individual countries -- Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States -- and the European Union.

Turkey took over the presidency of the G20 from Australia, and China will in turn preside over the summit in 2016. 

Turkey's chances are above 50 percent 

Mogherini also highlighted Turkey's chances of entering the EU, saying that according to public opinion, support for Turkey's membership is over 50 percent.

"We should improve this statistic," she said. "I hope that not only the Turkish government, but also the Turkish people, embrace that Turkey's accession to the EU is not only beneficial for Turkey, but also for the EU as well."

Turkey applied for its EU membership in 1987, with accession talks beginning in 2005.

However, negotiations hit a stalemate in 2007 due to Turkey’s position on the Cyprus issue and opposition to its full EU membership by the German and French governments.

To obtain its membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters, which involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

So far, 14 chapters have been opened, while 17 remain blocked and a further four have yet to be discussed. Only one chapter has been opened in the past three years. 

Juncker's statements

Mogherini also commented on the President of the European Commission's statements on not letting new members join the EU for five years, saying that the important point was to work on becoming a member.

Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement published on the European Commission's website that the EU needed a break from enlargement so that it could consolidate what had been achieved.

"This is why, under my presidency of the commission, ongoing negotiations will continue, and notably the Western Balkans will need to keep a European perspective, but no further enlargement will take place over the next five years," the statement quoted him as saying. 

Sheltering Syrian and Iraqi people

Mogherini stressed Turkey's efforts on sheltering Syrian and Iraqi people as well, saying "Turkey has done a remarkable job on sheltering, feeding and supporting Syrian and Iraqi people."

"The EU will continue to increase its aid to these refugees in Turkey," she added.

Turkey is first in the world in the provision of humanitarian aid, according to a 2013 report released by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency on Sunday.

Turkey spent $4.3 billion in humanitarian aid through its official channels and non-profit organizations around the world.

Countries are ranked in the report by the amount of aid provided with respect to the country's GNP, meaning that with respect to its Gross National Product, Turkey ranks as first in the world.

Last month, a report by the Turkish parliament said that nearly 230,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey are living in proper conditions in camps.

The parliamentary commission's report covered the number of Syrian refugees who have entered Turkey in September and October 2014, the number of wounded in Kobani treated in Turkey and the amount of humanitarian aid delivered to the embattled Syrian-Turkish border town.

Currently, there are more than 1.6 million refugees being hosted in the country.

Refugees are given money from the World Food Program and Turkey's Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency to buy food from markets inside the camps.

Schools are also provided in the camps, with Turkish and Syrian volunteer teachers giving lessons in both Turkish and Arabic at primary, junior high and high school levels.

The refugee camps -- for which 97 percent of building costs were covered by Turkey -- and their residents were in good condition and the refugees' needs were being met, the report said.

Last Mod: 08 Aralık 2014, 09:57
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