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Egemen Bağış: 'The EU must accept Turkey'


interview

Egemen Bağış: 'The EU must accept Turkey'

Joining the European Union remains a top priority for Turkey despite the economic crisis and controversy over comments made on the Armenian genocide. They’re also a key player in trying to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“We are joined by Turkish EU affairs minister. Egemen Bağış, welcome to Euronews.

“In Brussels, you spoke with the Turkey rapporteur, and with the President of the European Parliament, but with the EU in economic crisis and the eurozone in a critical situation. Why does Turkey still want to be part of the European Union?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“Turkey’s position is not driven by economic interests, we never saw the EU in this way. For us, Europe is the most extensive project for peace in all of human history. When we look at the member countries of the European Union, we find that peoples who have waged war for centuries now live in peace within the EU.

“For this peaceful project to become more worldwide Turkey should be integrated into it. Due to its geographical location, Turkey serves as a bridge between countries, and can give this project an international dimension.

“Despite the economic difficulties experienced by the EU, we must not forget that the EU still has the highest wealth per capita. Therefore the EU model is one of the best to apply when thinking of our own hopes for the future.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“Turkey plays an important role in the region. Isn’t it going to turn towards other horizons?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“As always, Turkey continues to be a bridge between East and West, between Islam and Christianity. In terms of energy resources it also serves as a bridge and manages supply and demand. This bridge, which extends from north to south, and east to west gets stronger every day. This shouldn’t be a source of disagreement.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“How does Turkey intend to help the EU out of economic crisis?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“As Turkey has also gone through very difficult times, we can say that the EU will emerge from this crisis even more stable and fortified. Not so long ago, there was a period of 12-13 years in which Turkey saw interest rates raise by 8000 percent in a single night.

“The first thing that the EU should do is take away the visa that applies to Turkish citizens. It’s unfair, illogical, and illegitimate. Turks should be able to travel freely in EU member countries.

“This would mean more tourists and therefore more money spent. They’ll do business. Turkish citizens now have the opportunity to travel without visas in 65 countries. We are part of the customs union, 50 percent of our foreign trade is with the EU, 60 percent of tourists visiting Turkey come from the EU. Despite all this, it is unfortunate that we can not we travel freely in EU countries.

“The world of business has grown significantly. Turkey is currently the sixth largest economy in Europe. Figures from the OECD predict that by 2050 Turkey will be the second largest economy, and until 2020 Turkey will continue to have the strongest economic growth in Europe.

“To build walls and close doors to such potential does not make sense. We must stop thinking that the Turks will emigrate to Europe, because in recent years we’ve seen that more Europeans are moving to Turkey than vice versa.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“Switzerland has opened an investigation into what you said about the law on the denial of genocide, and France is making similar moves. Does the fact that it could spread throughout the EU worry you?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“Among the most important principles of the EU is free speech. The fact that some EU members have to pass a series of laws that restrict freedom of speech is illogical, this is contrary to the principles of the EU constitution that the members have adopted.

“I said in Zurich, I repeat here, and I will repeat elsewhere, that with our information, according to our records and our sources, it makes no sense… it’s illogical to call the 1915 events a genocide.

“We challenge Armenia and other countries to open their archives. That we create an independent commission in which we find Armenian historians, Russian, Turkish, European and American historians.

“That all these countries open their archives so that we can analyse what really happened in 1915. Thereafter we can assess the situation. This is an execution without trial. Calling the 1915 events a genocide based solely on information we have right now, comes from a lobby that nurtures malicious hatred. We refuse to enter into their games.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“Could this be spread throughout the EU?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“This is against the principles of the EU. For this to be possible, all 27 EU members should take a unanimous decision. It’s unlikely that all 27 EU countries decide this at the same time.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“The AK party who are in power, seem tired of making reforms. Why are they not as dynamic as they once were?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“The AK party is not tired of making reforms. The AK party is historically the government which has made ​​the most reforms. Just look what we have done recently, for the first time in 88 years the celebration of Mass in the Orthodox Monastery of Sümela became possible.

“After 112 years our Armenian citizens began celebrating Mass in their Akdamar, recently in Turkey relations between civilians and the military and the Supreme Military Council were reformed. All this shows how we are more than ever determined to pursue reforms”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“The EU has high expectations for the Turkey’s new constitution. What do you plan to do?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“We are creating a commission with an equal number of representatives that reflects the four parties represented in parliament. Right now it is this committee which is responsible for the new constitution. NGOs, academics and journalists also support the work of the commission.

“We’ve also created a website so that citizens can make proposals. Different religious groups also support this initiative. Once all this information is collected the commission will prepare a civil constitution which I hope will unite all citizens.

“A constitution that will be approved by all political parties, a constitution that every citizen will agree with. This will enable Turkey to advance in the process of EU accession.”

Gülsüm Alan, euronews:

“In Syria, as the repression of civilians intensifies. What does Turkey intend to do to stop these massacres?”

Egemen Bağış EU affairs minister:

“Today at a press conference the President of the European Parliament himself said that Turkey is the country that made ​​the most courageous statements on this issue. We would also like to see European countries adopt a firmer stance.

“On one night alone 300 people were killed. The entire international community must tell them to stop. The international community should exert greater pressure on China and Russia who are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations.

“Tens of thousands of people have already been welcomed into Turkey. All our resources have been deployed… Concerning our plans for the future, I’m not ready to share that on camera, I’ll save it for diplomacy behind the scenes.”

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