MAIN CONTRIBUTIONS OF TURKEY’S ACCESSION TO THE EU IN A CHALLENGING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT
Turkey and Spain, which share similar historical backgrounds and presence on opposite shores of the Euro-Mediterranean space, constitute flanks of a very delicate axis of stability in southern Europe. Two centuries long Turkish-Spanish rivalry ended with the signing of the Agreement of Peace, Friendship and Trade in 1782. This signature is considered as the start of the modern Turkish-Spanish relations. Our bilateral relations have flourished over the years through a myriad of contacts and exchanges in our common geography, the Mediterranean, otherwise also known as the “sea of light”. Like the eloquent poems on Spain of Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, one of Turkey’s most acclaimed poets of the Republican period and also a Turkish ambassador to Spain in late 1920s, these contacts have drawn our two countries closer and better acquainted us with the values and visions of each other.
The long history we have shared has enabled Spain to fully appreciate the promise and potential in Turkey’s accession to the EU. We share a vision with Spain that the Mediterranean as before should once again be a source of inspiration for peace and stability. This understanding led us to co-sponsor together with Spain the timely initiative of the Alliance of Civilizations, whereby our countries demonstrated that we have to enrich ourselves by recognizing the other, while preserving our distinct identities. As such, setting a unique example for others to follow.
Against this background, European leaders have an exceptional chance to demonstrate their resolve in preparing the EU for the challenges of the 21st century, both internally and, even more decisively on the global stage. The smooth implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and mobilizing popular support for enlargement in general, and Turkey’s membership in particular appear to be two major tasks that lie ahead in this respect.
Fifty years into Turkey-EU relations, it is perplexing to find those that still question Turkey’s European identity. These views pay total disregard to Turkey’s well established place in European history as well as do great injustice to Turkey’s European vocation validated through its membership to European institutions such as the Council of Europe and NATO since 1949 and 1952 respectively, and the ongoing accession negotiations with the EU. With significant challenges and opportunities before us, we must now put these tiresome debates to rest and focus on the added value inherent in this accession, a process that started in 1963 and built upon contractual obligations between Turkey and the EU.
Today’s challenges are multifold: Financial crisis, energy security, illegal migration, epidemic diseases, climate change, organized crime, lack of mutual understanding between Islamic and Western societies, extremism and terrorism… we are all vulnerable to the same challenges with similar consequences. If we are to eradicate all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or creed, to promote a democratic and equitable international order, to obtain constant economic growth and to enhance sustainable development, then Turkey’s full membership to the EU can make a huge difference.
Considering regions like the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Balkans and the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Turkey is a force for good in all these troubled areas. The key objective of our foreign policy has always been to ensure peace, stability and prosperity far and wide. The proactive diplomacy pursued by Turkey to attain these objectives in our neighborhood and beyond, in fact complements EU’s policies to the same ends.
Turkey’s growing economic dynamism, coupled with its demographic qualities, offers a strategic option for the EU in addressing macroeconomic imbalances and future demographic challenges. Once we are in a position to join the EU as a full member, we will assume our share of the burden. However we face several political obstacles which undermine the principle of pacta sund servanda, and hence also the credibility of the EU. As membership will not happen overnight, there is no reason to prejudge that decision today. By that very day, Turkey will have attained the same standards and norms as that of the EU and this will definitely be in the interest of all sides concerned.
We are conscious of certain concerns in some member states as regards Turkey’s accession process. However, Turkey wishes to strengthen the EU and once the negotiations are concluded, I am confident that the merits of Turkish membership will be better understood and appreciated. We highly value Spain’s principled and visionary stance and support in this respect. With the constructive and farsighted approach of its leaders, we have full confidence in Spain and that it will conduct an exemplary Presidency of the EU, which will be beneficial for the whole of Europe, including Turkey.
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