Akinci ANKARA Turkey (Xinhua) --
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
delivered warm messages towards the European Union this
week after a year of particularly strained relations
between the two sides.
"I always say this, We
are compelled to reduce the number of foes and increase
the number of friends. We have no problems with Germany,
the Netherlands or Belgium. On the contrary, those who
are in the governments of these countries are my old
friends," Erdogan told journalists on Thursday during a
tour of African countries.
There might be official visits to France and Vatican
in the coming months as there have been positive signals
and easing of strained relations, he said.
His comments came after recent remarks by German
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Dutch Prime Minister
Mark Rutte encouraging positive relations with Turkey.
Gabriel said earlier this week that the EU should
seek new ways of dealing with Turkey.
According to Gabriel, the EU needs to find
"alternative" ways of creating closer cooperation and
partnerships with both Turkey and Ukraine as both
countries are unlikely to join the 28-member bloc in the
Rutte said on Dec. 23 that the "cold relations"
between the Netherlands and Turkey should be fixed.
"I think it would be good if relations with Turkey
"Turkey is a NATO partner," he told Dutch daily De
Telegraaf in an interview.
Turkey and the EU have had an ongoing spat since 2016
after Brussels expressed strong criticism of Ankara over
mass arrests in the country, connected with the failed
coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkey is a candidate member to the bloc since 1999
but its accession negotiation launched in 2005 did not
go far because of several member countries’ direct or
indirect opposition to the Muslim nation’s entry to the
The emergency rule and the massive crackdown imposed
after the botched coup also had a very negative effect
on these negotiations that have been officially halted.
Turkey-EU ties took a hard blow in November 2016,
when the European Parliament suspended Turkish accession
talks, following a constitutional referendum expanding
powers of president in April 2017, which prompted the EU
to vote to reopen the monitoring process against Turkey.
Ankara accused EU of harboring "terrorists,"
suspected coup plotters who took refuge or asylum in
several European countries, and Erdogan, for his part,
declared that Turkey had "kept waiting at Europe’s door
for far too long" and did not need EU membership
Recently the Jerusalem issue seem to have generated a
rapprochement opportunity between Brussels and Ankara.
In this context, Erdogan noted that his last contacts
with German and Dutch leaders, whose countries he
accused in the past of "Nazi practices," were "quite
good especially regarding the Jerusalem issue.
"We had problems, but our latest meetings have gone
"I asked for their support on Jerusalem; we are all
on the same page.
"I have called (German President Frank Walter)
Steinmeier to thank him.
"Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte sent some signals to
improve ties with us.
"These are satisfactory.
"We, of course, hope to have good ties with the EU
and EU countries," Erdogan emphasized.
The seemingly warming of relations is something that
most experts are supporting in Turkey at a time when
Ankara’s ties with its traditional NATO ally, the United
States, is also souring.
"The right choice for Turkey is definitely the EU,
not the United States or Russia," the latter with whom
Turkey has enjoyed close ties in the recent year, wrote
Emre Gonen from Istanbul’s Bilgi University in Sabah
"At a time when the ‘greatest’ democracy in the
world, the United States, is moving away from democratic
principles, it is high time for Turkey and the EU to get
closer based on transparency and co-operation," argued
Experts believe that Turkey has to deliver strong
determination to return to a full democracy and European
human rights standards as soon as possible.
For the relations to go back to track, "Turkey should
recover its self confidence and return from an
extraordinary situation to a normal one," told Xinhua EU
expert Dr. Bahadir Kaleagasi.
"The next accession report of the European Commission
is set to be published in April, Turkey still has time
until then to lift the emergency rule," said Kaleagasi,
CEO of Turkey’s leading business and industry group
Nevertheless, in order to do so, Turkey will have to
realign with European democratic norm and regulations
and convince its people of the need to return to the
roots to unlock the actual situation for a visa
liberation that Turks are been waiting for so long.
And this is not an easy task as roughly 69 percent of
the Turkish population does not believe in Turkey’s
accession to the EU soon, according to a recent survey
conducted by the Turkish Economic Development Foundation
Only 31 percent of Turks believe that their country
may become a full member, according to this survey.
"There is lack of trust in both camps, but we feel
sure that this can be amended with increased dialogue,"
a senior European diplomat told Xinhua on condition of
anonymity, adding that however, "the rule of law" should
be fully implemented, in a reference to the lifting of
the emergency rule in Turkey.
"The EU project plays an essential part in Turkey’s
global leadership ambitions" nourished by Erdogan,