19th Sep 2019

Turkey calls for more active EU foreign policy

  • Davutoglu: "The EU is a good example of how countries who had serious difficulties, the worst tensions in the past, came together " (Photo: Vassilena)

Turkey has urged the European Union to seek more influence in the South Caucasus and the Middle East, regions where Ankara already considers itself to be a major player.

Speaking on Saturday (13 March) ahead of an informal meeting with seven of his EU counterparts in Lapland, Finland, 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the EU should be "much more active than it is today" in foreign policy terms:

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"We want the EU to be much more active in all international affairs and also much more visionary, because the EU itself is a good example of how countries who had serious difficulties, the worst tensions in the past, came together based on the principle of values as well as economic interests."

Underlining the "good model" of the union, Mr Davutoglu said that countries in South Caucasus and the Middle East could learn lessons from European integration.

"The EU can provide strong messages and very good examples for other countries and regions," he said.

Turkey itself has recently begun to play a more assertive role in regional diplomacy, taking a firm position against further economic sanctions on Iran, trying to mediate between Syria and Israel and moving toward a rapprochement with Armenia.

Mr Davutoglu has personally been accused of having a "neo-Ottoman" view of Turkey's importance.

The minister said that EU membership remains a Turkish priority, however. He pointed to his own "presence" at the Lapland meeting as evidence of Ankara's strong interest in Europe.

Alluding to ongoing opposition from Germany and even more so France to Turkey eventually becoming a fully-fledged EU member, Mr Davutoglu said there are no economic, cultural or geopolitical grounds for Turkey's exclusion.

He noted that the Turkish economy is predicted to grow by 5.3 percent next year and that the country has leaped from being the 26th biggest economy in the world in 2002 to being the 16th today. Meanwhile, EU economic growth is set to stay modest at just 0.7 percent this year.

The minister said the notion that Turkey is a non-European country is "irrelevant" given the "historical linkages" between his nation and Europe.

He also pointed to Turkey's "successful" relations with its neighbours in a nod to EU fears that Turkish accession would extend the union's borders to security hot spots in the Middle East.

The EU formally opened membership talks with Turkey in 2005. But progress has all-but ground to a halt, largely due to Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus.

Spain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has said that it will continue to push for progress, however.

Spanish foreign minister Miguel Moratinos, also present at the Finnish meeting, said Madrid aims to open four legislative areas of negotiation with Ankara before the end of June, in education, competition, energy and food security.

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