World Bulletin/News Desk
Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, has said that Turkey's attendance at the EU leaders' summit is very important and that he is working on a new format that would allow the country to attend to the high-level summit in Brussels.
In a joint press conference with the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Thursday evening, Van Rompuy emphasized that Turkey should attend the regular summits because it is a very important partner of the EU.
Turkey was last invited to the leaders' summit in 2004, during which EU leaders agreed to open accession talks with Turkey in October 2005. Normally, candidate countries do not have the right to attend the summits.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was a staunch opponent of Turkey's EU bid, was opposed to inviting Turkey to the EU summit, and Turkey was not invited during his term in office.
“I am searching for some formulas [in order to invite Turkey.] It is so early to mention what kind of a format we could establish… I believe in the importance of contacts to be established between the EU leaders and the countries which are in the accession process. Turkey is a leading country on that question [as a candidate country,]” said Van Rompuy during the conference. (Cihan / Today's Zaman)
Erdoğan, in turn, emphasized Turkey's dynamic economy and successful economic growth during the press conference, saying: “Turkey doesn't think to take part in the EU only for its own gain. At the same time, the country also thinks to bring gains to the EU. So Turkey will not become a burden. On the contrary it will reduce the burden of the EU.”
Erdoğan also highlighted that Turkey has ended its 52-year debt relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month, paying off its once $23.5 billion debt to the creditor organization.
After the joint press conference, Erdoğan held an official dinner in honor of Van Rompuy's first Turkey visit.
Before the joint press conference on Thursday, Van Rompuy also delivered a speech at the “Conference of Latest Developments in Turkey-EU Relations" at the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), mentioning that accepting Turkey into the EU is vitally important for the union.
The European Council president also expressed his hope regarding the opening of new negotiation chapters soon, praising the judicial reforms taking place in Turkey, especially the fourth judicial package and the steps taken regarding the new constitution. He also referred to the fact that 2013 is the 50th year of the 1963-dated Ankara Agreement between the then European Economic Community (now the EU) and Turkey, and said that providing Turkey with the visa-free travel to the Europe is an issue that comes at the top of his agenda.
The Ankara Agreement and added protocol to the agreement took effect in 1973 and granted visa-free travel to Turkish citizens -- a right which Turkey renounced due to internal reasons after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. Turkey has been trying to regain this right for a very long time, but the leading European countries are dragging their feet about re-introducing such a right, fearing from a wave of immigration from Turkey.
In his TOBB speech, Van Rompuy also mentioning the discovery of the gas resources off the shores of Cyprus. He said the exportation of hydrocarbon resources would be economically advantageous for all Cypriots.
Touching on domestic developments in Turkey, Van Rompuy stated that the EU supports the efforts towards solving the Kurdish issue. Condemning the Reyhanlı blast in Turkish southern border province of Hatay on May 11, Van Rompuy praised Turkey's efforts to shelter Syrian refugees.Last Mod: 25 Mayıs 2013, 11:04