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Interview of H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to the Slovenian Press Agency STA, 5 September 2017

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has criticised the rise of populism in Europe. In an interview with the STA, he called for the continent to face rising racism, Islamophobia, intolerance and anti-migrant sentiment.

Populist parties are on the rise and mainstream parties are increasingly adopting radical views, Cavusoglu assessed on the margins of the Bled Strategic Forum.

He suggested that this was also the main contributing factor to the tensions in relations between Turkey and a number of European countries. He insisted in the interview Turkey had no problems with Germany or any other European country.

"From our point of view we have no problem with these countries. Why should I have any problem with Germany? There are more than 3.5 million Turks living there - if Germany is strong, they will be happy."

The problem in his opinion is internal politics in these countries, where "racism, Islamophobia, discrimination and intolerance are on the rise".

"Politicians are becoming very populist. The press is very negative. Look at the press in Europe, all of them are anti-migrant. So are the politicians. So who is going to break this vicious cycle?"

Commenting on the most recent German election debate, the Turkish minister highlighted that it was focused on the wrong issues. "This was a debate about Turkey, not about the election in Germany.

"This is just populism on the eve of the elections," he assessed, adding that "German citizens have other priorities and other issues on which they want to hear policies and opinions from the leaders of the two main political parties".

He was particularly critical of the German opposition Social Democrats stance on Turkey. "This party had supported Turkish EU membership, now it has adopted a radical stance on Turkey." He called this an attempt to win votes of the radical voters, which will not succeed.

As to Turkey's aspirations for EU membership, Cavusoglu said that nothing had changed from Turkey's point of view. "We are ready to open any chapter, to negotiate any technical issue... But the problem is a political one emanating from the other side."

"This is not all EU member states, but there are a few EU members categorically against membership." Some of the larger countries "don't want to share the power with Turkey".

He assessed that this is unfair, since Turkey is a European country, which has been contributing to the European economy, social life, culture, sports and security. And it is also bad for the bloc: "If the EU wants to be a global power, they definitely need Turkey."

The Turkish Foreign Minister also said that his country was not very satisfied with the implementation of the 2016 refugee deal with the bloc.

"From our side, we have implemented the agreement fully. Europe has not been implementing it fully. There is no problem with the one-for-one formula, but according to the deal, when the refugee numbers go down, voluntary resettlement is supposed to start. It hasn't started yet, even though the refugee numbers have fallen greatly."

The EU has also not delivered on its pledge to provide EUR 3bn to Turkey in 2016 for Syrians living there. "Only 800 and something million has come to Turkey. So we are owed 2.2bn for 2016. There is also another 3bn pledged until the end 2018, but we don't see it."

Additionally, there has been no progress on visa-free programme for Turkish citizens and the opening of new chapters in EU membership negotiations. Not keeping its promises "is why the EU has been losing its credibility", Cavusoglu told the STA.

According to him, Turkey currently hosts more than three million Syrian refugees, which is a "huge burden" for the country. More than EUR 26bn has been used for this purpose.

Cavusoglu went on to reject criticism from the West that democratic standards in Turkey are falling. "We have a state of emergency, but France is an EU member state and it also has a state of emergency. We have taken these measures against the plotters, against the terrorist organisation."

Alleging that "nobody cares about the security of Turkey", he said that his country had to take action against terrorists "which have infiltrated the judiciary, military, ministries and other institutions".

But he reaffirmed Turkey's commitment to the rule of law. "We have a democratic system, we have a constitution and we have reformed our legislation in the past 15 years according to the recommendations from the EU and Council of Europe.

"There is no step back. With the new constitution we are strengthening democracy, separation of power, impartiality of judiciary, but we also need to provide for stability," he told the STA.