The conference “Turkey and European Union Relations: the way forward”, hosted by IAI, in cooperation with the Turkish Economic Development Foundation, was an occasion to focus on some delicate economic and political issues in EU-Turkey relations and problems that are hindering the accession process.
With respect to visa liberalization, analyst Gerald Knaus, head of the European Stability Initiative, stated: “visa liberalization is a technical and political solution, and could be a turning point in the accession negotiations”. In spite of fears, “if Turkey respects the accession criteria of the EU and the latter responds with a policy of visa liberalization, this would create a model that re-establishes trust between the parties”. The ESI analyst thinks that “by the end of 2016, visa liberalization could be implemented”, especially if one looks at the positive GDP per capita trend in Turkey .
In fact, according to Omer Cihad Verdan, chairman of the Economic Development Foundation, “a coherent and clear visa policy is lacking. This is slowing down exports toward the European continent, and causing delays for Turkish businesspeople.”
Turkey’s Deputy Minister for EU Affairs, Alaattin Büyükkaya, reminded the audience that the Turkish “GDP rose by 1.5% last year”, less than the preceding years. However, this has not affected Turkey status as the sixth economic power in Europe.
Alberto Cutillo, of European Union Directorate of the Italian Foreign Ministry, reaffirmed “Italy’s commitment to reinforcing the long-standing cultural and economic relations between the two countries”, assuring that expediting Turkey’s accession to the EU is a “strategic priority for guaranteeing security and democracy in Europe”.
Ali Çarkoglu, dean of Koç University, expressed his criticism on issues of democracy and security: “ Turkey must solve the problem of the presidential system, a legal and not only a political matter, through open dialogue with the opposition, needed to solve the leadership vacuum.”
Winding up the conference, Ali Resul Usul, chairman of Turkish Center for Strategic Studies, laid out Turkey’s strategic foreign priorities, which aims to “maintain solid relations with Arab neighbors, by renewing its role as a regional actor, also within NATO”. At the same time, “the EU must conduct the accession process in a meritocratic way, without being caught up in political interests”, just as “the Turkish government, fearful of having concede part of its sovereignty to the EU in certain sphere of EU competence, must overcome its prejudices”.