Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik paid a visit to Tallinn, Estonia, which holds the EU presidency, and participated in the Informal Meeting of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs (Gymnich) on 7-8 September 2017.
Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik attended a dinner held for the EU Member States and candidate countries by the Estonian EU Presidency on 7 September. On 8 September, Minister Ömer Çelik attended and delivered a speech at the session on “preventing and countering radicalisation and violent extremism“ in which all EU Member States and candidate countries participated.
Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik also exchanged views on Turkey-EU relations with his counterparts on the margins of the Gymnich meeting.
EU Minister Ömer Çelik held a press conferance at the and of the meeting.
During his press statement at the Turkish Embassy in Tallinn, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik indicated that he had expressed at the Gymnich meeting Turkey’s discomfort regarding the statements on the suspension of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. Minister Ömer Çelik said “These statements are wrong. Turkey has come all this way as a strong European state and democracy without being an EU member.”
Emphasizing that EU membership was a strategic objective for Turkey, Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik said: “Turkey maintains this objective. How can you fight radicalisation if you do not cooperate with Turkey, a country with a secular and democratic regime and a majority Muslim population? Therefore, I underlined that statements on suspension or freezing of Turkey’s accession negotiations were in fact the most important sources of support for radicalisation. I underlined that there was a need for concentrating on the future through closer relations between Turkey and the EU to resolve these major problems.”
Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik also pointed that another important issue was the recent discussions on Turkey and said:
“If Da’esh carries out an attack on Turkey, we see the Turkish flag reflected on many buildings, such as public buildings and the opera. However, if an attack on Turkey is carried out by the PKK, we do not observe the same solidarity. Thus, we would like to see that everyone is made aware of this double standard. As long as such sensitivities are not observed, all these lengthy meetings held and strategies produced for the fight against radicalisation will not be adequate.”
Replying to the question on the statements by German politicians prior to national elections regarding the suspension of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, Minister Ömer Çelik indicated that discussions were held on Turkey and refugee issue instead of internal matters such as education and the economy and said: “Targeting an ally and neighbouring country in this manner is a weakness that harms democracy.”
Indicating that the government and the opposition were trying to instrumentalise the issue of Turkey in order to challenge each other, Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik noted: “It is absolutely wrong to do this. Neither German democracy nor Turkey-German relations will benefit from this. In fact, recent approaches that call for “the suspension or a halt to Turkey’s EU accession negotiations” do not befit the depth of Turkey-German relations. As long as there are no unfavourable statements coming from them, we do not make negative statements. However, we will certainly reply to a number of carelessly worded statements against Turkey and the Turkish President. These statements will not go unanswered. Thus, it is out of the question for Germany to harm Turkey over the EU accession process. This will actually harm Germany and Europe.”
Noting that he did not see any indications of a suspension of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations despite the calls made by Germany, Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik stated: “Certain persons are formulating this approach: ‘If we suspend accession negotiations with Turkey, we will have taught Turkey a lesson and put it in its place.’ I have to say clearly that they are not able to fathom the importance of Turkey. This is not child’s play. There will be serious consequences if such a decision is taken; in fact, even the discussion of such a decision would have serious repercussions.”
Pointing out that even as EU Member States want to cooperate with Turkey on the issues of the fight against terrorism and refugees, democratic solidarity is withheld, Minister for EU Affairs Ömer Çelik said: “The problems faced by Europe cannot be resolved without Turkey. Turkey is currently a key country with reference to security issues, in particular the refugee issue. Furthermore, Turkey is also a key country for strengthening democratic solidarity within Europe.”