Ankara will accept an equation of Turkey’s membership to the European Union if both sides benefit, but nobody can force the country into a harmful option, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on May 9.
“EU membership is meaningful in an equation in which both sides gain. Nobody can force Turkey to accept an equation that will be harmful,” Erdoğan said at a Reform Action Group meeting.
The group convened for the first time under the leadership of Erdoğan on Europe Day to discuss the government’s political, economic and legal reforms for the stalled EU accession process.
“Turkey proceeds on its way persistently despite those trying to exclude it from the European family,” Erdoğan said, noting the “EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the EU.”
Turkey will see how sincere the EU is in visa liberalization when it fulfills six remaining criteria out of 72, he said, referring to the visa-free travel process between Ankara and Brussels which awaits Turkey’s fulfillment of some legislations.
In his address, Erdoğan pledged to make structural reforms in a bid to restore Turkey’s economy.
“We need to give more weight to structural reforms in order to strengthen our economy. We need to accelerate the reforms that will provide confidence to international investors and that will make our country gain momentum,” he said.
The presidential government system has accelerated the decision-making and implementation processes, he said. “Now we have the opportunity to implement our reforms more quickly and effectively.”
He called on the ministers to turn Turkey’s reform will into concrete steps and accelerate the relations with the EU as well.
“Developing the fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens is a key priority for us,” Erdoğan stated.
“In order to strengthen our economy, we need to give more weight to structural reforms. The most important of these will be the steps we will take in the judiciary,” he said, noting that a justice academy is on their agenda to provide better training to judges and prosecutors.
“If we share the Judicial Reform Strategy with the public and implement the reforms here quickly, we will give a positive message to the markets and prepare the environment to accelerate the investments,” he said, recalling the long waiting reform strategy for justice.
Ankara should focus on areas where Turkish-EU relations will benefit in the coming period, he said.
Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.
But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France.