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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following the meeting with Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey
Brussels, 21 January 2014
I may also welcome Prime Minister Erdoğan to Brussels.
We already met earlier today, at the European Commission, where we mainly discussed the state of play of our bilateral relations but also some international and regional topics. The EU and Turkey are close allies and it is absolutely critical that we sustain and deepen our partnership, which is already so fruitful and beneficial for both sides and spans from trade and customs to political dialogue, from energy cooperation to counter-terrorism.
If I may I will just mention one figure that illustrates the importance of these relations. Apart from the very dynamic trade relationship, more than 75% of the investment in Turkey comes from the European Union. This shows how much close we are in economic terms and also, I hope, in political terms.
The Commission and the Turkish Government were both central in creating renewed momentum in the accession negotiations over the last year – with the first chapter opening in three years – Chapter 22, Regional Policy –, the readmission agreement signed and a breakthrough on visa dialogue, which will offer great benefits to both sides, not least the citizens of Turkey. All this shows our willingness to move forward.
And it is precisely because of the great mutual importance of our relations and because of their big further potential that we are concerned, as many others in the EU, about recent events in Turkey.
We have followed the events closely and I have today relayed the European concerns to Prime Minister Erdogan – as an honest friend and partner. I made the point about what exactly is happening today in Turkey. I was quite happy during the discussion because the Prime Minister Erdoğan, in a very frank and open manner, addressed all the issues and gave us reassurances of his intention to fully respect the rule of law, the independence of judiciary and, generally speaking, the separation of powers.
I think these are fundamental principles of democracy and they are, in the first place, in Turkey's very own national political and economic interest. But also they are a central and vital element of the Copenhagen criteria for the EU accession negotiations.
I am therefore confident that the Turkish Government will swiftly address the issues we have raised, and I believe that structural reforms are a challenging process, which is not straightforward. We know how challenging some of the issues that Turkey is now confronting are, but I want to state very clearly that Turkey is not alone in this, and we stand ready to support you, Prime Minister, with our experience on these matters.
We have also today discussed other matters like ways to deepen our fruitful trade relations. I took the opportunity to address the Prime Minister's questions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Package.
Regarding mobility and visa issues, which are so important to our citizens, I welcomed Turkey's decision to sign the Readmission Agreement last December. In turn, the Commission could also start the visa liberalisation dialogue with Turkey in December. Now, we need follow-up. I hope that visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens will be quickly completed. This depends, however, not just on European Union good will, but also on the speed with which Turkey implements the necessary reforms.
We also touched upon our growing energy relationship, where we share an obvious mutual interest in swiftly realizing the Southern Gas Corridor to diversify our respective supplies. Indeed, Turkey is already a very important partner of the European Union in energy and I believe the potential to be even a much bigger hub for all this region is there and we are very much interested in working together. Once again I thank Turkey for its constructive approach in this field.
We also agreed on the urgent need to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue. This is surely of our common interest, and a decisive move in this field would no doubt also be conducive to progress in Turkey's wider relations with the European Union. Progress in this matter is of fundamental importance. This is a message that we have been conveying also to the parties in Cyprus.
Finally, regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria, this terrible tragedy in slow motion, we agreed on the urgent need for a political solution. I would like to reiterate our gratitude for Turkey's great efforts to host not only the refugees but also the European Union's crisis response personnel, which helps us to perform our role as the largest donor in this crisis.
Prime Minister Erdoğan,
As I said: our strong and deepening ties reflect our shared future interests – and I think both European Union and Turkey realise this very well. I am pleased to confirm that the Prime Minister is personally committed to pursue these negotiations and the critical reforms that go with them. I look forward to continuing our dialogue.
I thank you.