For an official reaction to the European Commission’s annual progress report on enlargement policy, euronews asked Turkey’s chief negotiator, in Ankara, Egemen Bağış.
Ilker Ozyasar, euronews: Mr. Bağış, what’s your assessment?
Bağış: I think that rather than assessing the report on its own, it’s appropriate to compare it with previous reports. This is not the first but the thirteenth report the European Commission has rendered on Turkey. These have been published since 1998.
Past reports made mention of unsolved crimes. Today, there is no such mention. In contrast, we have the Turkish constitutional change and cooperation between Turkish institutions. There are better relations in Turkey with different groups of religious faith. There is Turkey’s determination to adopt EU reforms.
Time and again, the executive of the 27-member EU makes positive mention of improvements in Turkey. But it is too simplistic to seek to evaluate whether we are satisfied with the report or not. Turkey is not a schoolboy looking at a report card with baited breath.
euronews: More than half of the negotiating chapters [as they are called] in the EU membership talks are blocked: are you still hopeful about Turkish entry prospects?
Bağış: Of course I am. The reasons the chapters are being blocked are political. The political obstacles are the consequence of some politicians’ narrow vision, or wrong interpretations.
But when you look at the issue over the long term, on one hand the EU is humanity’s most important peace project, and on the other hand Turkey is the main actor for peace in its region. Global peace requires the integration of Turkey and the EU. Both will benefit from this, not only one side.
So I have no doubt that sooner or later Turkey will move forward in the EU process and will become a member.
euronews: Does Turkey intend to make any kind of gesture on Cyprus?
Bağış: Listen, at the UN summit in Switzerland in January 2003, Turkey’s Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdogan] told the Secretary-General [then], Kofi Annan, that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus would always be one step ahead of southern Cyprus and Greece. At the moment we are not one step ahead; we are a thousand steps ahead.
In the last eight years Turkey has made many gestures, and achieved important reforms. It is thanks to these gestures that Turkey’s human rights standards, economy and prosperity have improved.
At the same time it helped Turkey to make numerous gains in the EU membership process. It brought Turkey closer to the EU. But now it is the time for the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus to make gestures.
Everyone in the world is of the opinion that both the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and Turkey are in favor of a peaceful solution. The Greek Cypriots have to prove that they really want peace and compromise. If they really want a peaceful solution, they have to prove it.
euronews: Let’s wait and see how Turkey develops between now and the next report.