Ambassador states importance of Turkey-EU ties amid Ukraine war

Turkey’s Ambassador to Prague, Egemen Bağış, emphasized on Monday that the Russia-Ukraine war caused a serious change in the security and defense policies of the European Union (EU) and underlined the importance of developing Türkiye-EU relations in this process.

Ambassador Bağış spoke at the conference titled “Türkiye-EU Relations in the Context of the Ukraine War” organized by the Economic Development Foundation (IKV) in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

Bağış summarized the challenges Europe faced in the period from the 2008 economic crisis to the Russia-Ukraine war and touched upon the effects of the war on the European Union.

Noting that there was a serious change in security and defense policies at both the EU and national level due to the war, Bağış drew attention to the unexpected decisions taken by countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, as well as the developments in NATO.

Stating that Türkiye’s role in such a process is very important, Bağış said that Ankara should be the EU’s security partner in many respects.

Noting that the Cyprus issue should not prevent Türkiye-EU relations and Türkiye’s participation in various missions of the EU, Bağış stated that the parties should develop different policies regarding the problems that affect not only this region but also other geographies.

Bağış stressed that the war in Ukraine had important consequences for the EU’s enlargement and neighborhood policy and that the membership applications of Moldova and Georgia, especially the Kyiv administration, were at the top of the list of important agenda items of the union.

Stating that the enlargement policy of the union will not only serve the stability and welfare of the EU but also contribute to the security of the continent, Bağış said that the operation process of the enlargement policy has caused great disappointment for all candidate countries and that the EU has to come before Türkiye because of this difficult process. Then he stated that he lost the Western Balkan countries.

Mentioning that the EU should reconsider its decision-making principles and mechanisms regarding enlargement policies, Bağış emphasized the importance of taking measures to prevent member states from misusing their veto rights.

Drawing attention to Türkiye’s efforts in the grain deal and the exchange of prisoners of war between the parties, Bağış said, “The war has rekindled Türkiye’s geopolitical importance for both the EU and NATO and Türkiye-EU cooperation is not only a matter of choice but also an inevitability. It also showed that it was an issue.”

Finally, Bağış pointed out that Türkiye-EU relations are multifaceted in every aspect, and therefore the importance of reviving the negotiations. “As I always underline, Türkiye is the missing piece of the European puzzle.”

The IKV aims to contribute to the Türkiye-EU membership negotiations process with the “EU Term Presidency and Türkiye’s EU Membership Process Project,” which it carries out in every EU member state capital that has taken over the EU Presidency.

Emphasizing the importance of communication strategy in Türkiye’s EU membership process many times, the IKV continues its efforts to better understand Türkiye’s accession negotiations process and to raise awareness of EU citizens on this issue by expanding its Brussels-based activities toward the EU and organizing meetings that will also impact other EU countries. In this context, meetings are held in the EU country that assumed the term presidency with the EU Term Presidency project implemented in 2010.

Türkiye-EU relations are marked by disputes on several issues, including tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Türkiye’s role in Syria, the migrant crisis, and the stalemate in Türkiye’s accession process to join the bloc. However, Türkiye has recently reiterated that it is part of Europe and sees its future in the EU, adding that it will continue to work toward full membership. Ankara is calling to re-energize the accession process and update the Türkiye-EU Customs Union as it advocates for regular high-level dialogues, visa liberalization, and further counterterrorism efforts.

Türkiye has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor in 1964, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Türkiye had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Türkiye had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates. In recent years, the accession process seems stalled.