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Turkey's accession process to theEuropean Union has remained in deadlock for the last three years, but the recent decision by France to lift the blockage on one chapter is "promising," Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said yesterday at the EU-Turkey Conference of Journalists event in Istanbul.
"The recent decision by France to lift its blockage on Chapter 22, 'Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments,' is a promising first step. We expect this step to have a positive impact on accession negotiations and hope that France's obstruction of the remaining four chapters will also come to an end in the future. At this point, it is also important to remember that public support for Turkey's EU membership has slipped considerably in Turkey over the last three years. It is not that they are against membership, but they have lost their faith in it," Koru said at the event, in the presence of Turkish and European journalists as well as the EU delegation to Turkey.
Turkey is 'the answer'
"17 chapters were blocked for political reasons ... Our accession process has almost come to a standstill. Since 2010, no new chapters have been opened, under five consecutive presidencies of the EU," Koru added. He emphasized Turkey's influence on the political and economic vitality of the bloc, if it joined. He said that if the EU wanted to be geopolitically relevant, economically competitive and culturally inclusive, all of which are key to retaining an edge in today's fast changing world, then Turkey's membership was the only answer.
"We are the sixth largest economy in Europe, projected to be the second in 2050. Our goal is to make Turkey one of the top 10 economies of the world by 2023. But maybe more importantly, we have raised the standards of our democracy and, in EU terminology, fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria. Naturally, we still have a lot to do to fully meet the democratic aspirations of our people, but there is no doubt that today Turkish democracy serves as a source of inspiration to the wider area surrounding it," he said.
Visa exemption for Turkish citizens would be another aspect of positive steps, Koru also said.
Jean-Maurice Ripert, the Head of EU Delegation in Ankara, who chaired the conference, said the EU was putting the train back on the tracks, starting with chapter 22 and keeping in mind the concrete progress already achieved in the Positive Agenda working groups. Ripert added that the EU was looking to launch a broad dialogue with Turkey on visas, mobility and migration as soon as possible which, together with the implementation of the already agreed re-admission agreement, aims to lift the visa requirement.
Prominent journalists from Turkey and European countries, numbering 25 in total, also attended the conference. Late journalist Mehmet Ali Birand, a regular participant at the conference in previous years, was commemorated by the display of his picture. The conference will continue today in the town of Hatay, on the Turkish-Syrian border.
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