Will Erdogan come to the Castle? We need fair treatment, we belong to the EU summit, the Turkish ambassador says

13.09.2022 www.lidovky.cz Iveta Krizova

The October informal EU summit, which should be hosted by the Czech government at Prague Castle, will bring together 48 European statesmen. There is a question mark over the participation of Turkish President Recep Erdogan. At a time of escalating relations between Türkiye and Greece and increasing numbers of migrants heading to the EU via Türkiye, Erdogan’s participation is unacceptable to some European statesmen. “As a candidate country, Türkiye must be invited,” the Turkish ambassador to the Czech Republic, Egemen Bağış, says in an interview for Lidovky.cz.

Lidovky.cz: Minister of the Interior Vit Rakusan (STAN) said a few days ago that it is necessary to exert pressure on Türkiye due to growing migration. What does Ankara say about it?

We are following with great concern the public statements about the need to put pressure on Türkiye due to the growing number of Syrian refugees coming to the EU from our country. I believe that these statements do not reflect the current state of affairs regarding Türkiye-EU migration relations. “There is already too much pressure and burden on Türkiye in the form of illegal migration. Türkiye fulfills its obligations towards the EU, but the EU does so only partially. Before the EU demands anything from Türkiye, which hosts 3.7 million Syrians and half a million other Asians and Africans at a cost of no less than €45 billion, it must meet its own commitments to both Syrians and Türkiye.

We are taking on the greatest burden of illegal migration in Europe. Most refugees wish to move to the rest of Europe, not to Türkiye. This is therefore a European problem. That is why we need a medium- or long-term migration management strategy to tackle this problem. “We should focus on sharing the burden of settlement and financial costs fairly, facilitating voluntary returns and improving conditions in source countries, most urgently in northern Syria and Afghanistan,” Bağış said.

Lidovky.cz: At the beginning of October, the Czech Republic will host an informal EU summit and there are also speculations about Turkish participation, which some EU countries are opposed to. Has President Recep Erdogan received an official summit invitation?

We are expecting it, but we have not yet received an official invitation for President Erdogan to attend the Prague summit. Until a few years ago, the candidate countries
were used to be invited to EU summits. This demonstrated European unity while encouraging the candidate countries. However, the EU is currently discriminating against Türkiye because six other candidate and potential candidate countries are regularly invited to EU-Western Balkans summits. Although Türkey has been a candidate country since 1999, it has not been invited to these summits or ministerial meetings.

Lidovky.cz: Would Ankara be interested in participating in the Prague summit?

Yes. Türkiye must be invited as a candidate country. The Prague Summit is about the European Political Community (EPC), which was proposed mainly as an interim process until EU accession. Therefore, not only as a candidate country, but also as a European nation contributing in many areas, Türkiye and its representatives should participate in the EPC Summit.

Lidovky.cz: What is Turkey’s view of the European political community, a concept that French President Macron has come up with?

French President Macron proposed a European Political Community that was renamed as the European Geopolitical Community by President of the European Council Michel following the Russian aggression, in the face of 10 potential candidate or candidate countries, including Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. We all know that there is no fast track and EU membership requires conditionality, preparation, reforms, alignment, and time If the EPC is not presented as an alternative to EU membership and if it contributes to and accelerates the accession process, it will be useful for both candidate countries and the EU.

It would be in the interest of all of Europe to have Türkiye in the EPC. We can be a valuable asset in many areas such as security, defence, energy security, economic recovery, migration management, climate change, prevention of radicalization, and harmony between the West and the East.

Lidovky.cz: How does Ankara evaluate the current state of relations with the E-27?

We need fair treatment from the EU. Because of the Cyprus issue, and maximalist and irrational demands of Greece about the Aegean and the East-Med, Türkiye-EU relations are blocked. The Greek Cypriots and Greeks are abusing their right of veto and solidarity in the EU against Türkiye, hoping that they will be able to enforce their claims. This blocks the accession negotiations, which are supposed to be technical, and paralyses cooperation.

Unfortunately, this deadlock also discourages the reforms for alignment with the Copenhagen Political Criteria and the EU acquis. Being a member of the EU cannot
mean that you are right about everything. By the way, the EU has no competence or jurisdiction in the delimitation of borders or maritime zones between countries. Therefore, the Union should remain outside bilateral disputes, as it has done and does in similar cases between Slovenia and Croatia and Kosovo and Serbia.

Lidovky.cz: What diplomatic role does Türkiye play in the war between Ukraine and Russia? Can you contribute to ending the war?

Since the beginning of the war, we have firmly rejected the illegal and unfair actions of Russia and provided comprehensive support to Ukraine. At the same time, we have been engaging both sides diplomatically to bring an end to the hostilities. In this respect, the strategic partnership with Ukraine and the working relationship with Russia is an asset in our efforts in this regard.

At the beginning of March, we brought together the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Ukraine in Antalya, which was the first political contact between the two countries. On March 29, a meeting took place in Istanbul between the Ukrainian and Russian technical delegations, the first of its kind outside Belarus. At the end of the negotiations, representatives of both countries announced that the most significant progress had been made since the beginning of the crisis.

Although negotiations have been suspended due to developments on the ground, we still believe that a legitimate, sustainable and just peace can be achieved through diplomacy and negotiation. We should strive for a fair outcome before other Ukrainians die. We therefore attach great importance to keeping the diplomatic track available when it is needed. The Istanbul Agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain has proved the validity of this approach. A major food crisis has been prevented.

Lidovky.cz: President Erdogan has offered to arrange a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Türkiye. How is this initiative developing?

In his recent face-to-face meetings with both President Putin and President Zelensky, our President drew attention to the urgent need to resume negotiations. He also expressed our readiness to receive both leaders in Istanbul for direct talks. Although both sides are currently reluctant to meet, we will continue to keep this offer on the table, as we believe that it is the best approach under these circumstances.

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