Bilateral relations through the EU

Recently, politicians and others have severely criticized the government’s decision to play a leading part in supporting Turkey’s European prospects. What is your response? Our policy on Turkey is based on our principles and interests; it is not imposed from outside. Copenhagen and the decisions taken there demonstrated the correctness of our policy at Helsinki, even though some people have taken it upon themselves to question its significance for the great issues of our foreign policy. The date of accession negotiations was not given to Turkey as a present. It is a stage in Turkey’s European prospect which presupposes progress on its part on certain issues stipulated by the EU. By supporting an earlier date than the one eventually decided on, we supported a faster solution of the Cyprus and bilateral problems, substantive policies and economic reforms, since these issues are inextricable elements of Turkey’s progress toward the EU. Its candidacy prevented the a la carte relationship between Turkey and the EU favored by some because that would entail no obligations on either side and, more importantly, would not be linked to the conditions and criteria of Copenhagen. We did not favor such a relationship. Doesn’t Athens’s apparent support for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the neo-Islamist Turkish leader, risk complicating Greek-Turkish relations, as he directly opposes the traditional regime of his country? Last November’s elections in Turkey created a new political scene. They brought new social and political forces to the forefront by parliamentary procedures. The political scene we knew, with the large traditional parties, was rearranged in favor of a new majority which has its own priorities and expresses the political and social mobility and concerns of Turkish society. In my view it would be wrong to identify this new political movement with the labels of the past, such as Islamist or neo-Islamist, when it is a complex political phenomenon, just as Turkish society is complex and has many internal contradictions. How do you rate your contacts so far with the Turkish political leadership? The prime minister and I have had several opportunities to meet Erdogan, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, all of which confirmed the new Turkish leadership’s will to develop Greek-Turkish relations, consolidate the climate of cooperation in all fields, resolve bilateral problems, and formulate new strategic relations between the two countries. In previous years our initiatives significantly improved the climate of bilateral relations. We will adhere to this policy because it is the only one that supports the interests of both nations – stability, peace, cooperation and regional development.

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