Egemen BAĞIŞ, Former EU Minister & Chief Negotiator of Turkey speaks to Vaahan about Turkey and Europe’s common threat of terrorism.
“We need to unite our strength and closely cooperate with each other. In this regard, Turkish and EU cooperation remains a priority.”
Today both Turkey and Europe are faced with the continued threat of terrorism. The form and manifestation of this threat may change, yet we have to remain resolute.
For us, there is no difference between the suicide bombings in Europe, or in Turkey or elsewhere. We must show equal determination in displaying our solidarity against them and matching this solidarity with our deeds.
Turkey is at the forefront of DEASH threat and our authorities exert every effort to counter it. We are taking all necessary measures to prevent third country citizens from travelling to Syria to join radical groups.
Turkey is also at the forefront of the PKK threat. The PKK wants to take advantage of the Syrian unrest, through YPG. It has attacked railways, dams, other infrastructure, schools, hospitals, ambulances etc. Yet it has continued attempts to portray itself as a legitimate entity and we feel disappointed when we see its propaganda voiced in the European Parliament and in the European media. Unfortunately, our current efforts to prevent terrorists re-entering Turkey and Europe must be redoubled, following a short-sighted deal brokered with the YPG that was backed by western powers, transporting Isis terrorists, their families, and their weapons, out of Raqqa. Where are those terrorists now? There needs to be further collaborative efforts to heighten security at all our borders to prevent these people from infiltrating back into civilised society.
We must be united in our stance against the threat of terrorism.
This wave of terrorism has an obvious root cause, the deathly maze that is situated in Syria.
We all have the same wish to reinstate peace and stability in this region. In this vein, Turkey has helped to pave the way to revitalize the political process. We have laid the groundwork for meetings in Vienna. We have encouraged the opposition to engage in the political process and take their seat as equals with the regime and to make their case in Geneva. They were given assurances by the UN that once they are in Geneva there would be progress on the humanitarian front. The steps on this front were also outlined in the Security Council resolution 2254. These assurances did not materialize.
This has led to mass movement of people in hundreds of thousands. Their direction was the Turkish border. It is unfair to expect Turkey to cope with this pressure by itself. This has affected the chances of success of the Action Plan which was agreed on with the EU.
We can manage to overcome the migration crisis only if we act in solidarity. We need to unite our strength and closely cooperate with each other. In this regard, Turkish and EU cooperation remains a priority. We should not however, allow some incomplete assessments to undermine our cooperation. Unrealistic expectations and populist approaches do not help us in reaching a sound solution.
I would like to reiterate that Turkey is honouring its commitments regarding the Action Plan. The EU are aware of the measures we have taken. Even though the worsening situation in Syria gives rise to the number of refugees, thanks to our measures, we have managed to decrease the number of irregular crossings into the EU. The measures have started to bear fruit. We should be patient.
The responsibility and burden of sharing is of paramount importance in this joint endeavor, as reflected in the Action Plan. We are glad to see that the EU is also honouring its commitments with respect to the financial contribution for the needs of the Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey.
I believe the missing part in our cooperation thus far, is an effective communication strategy. We need to show to our public opinion that the Action Plan is functioning well. This can only be done with the support of all member states. We do not have the luxury to sacrifice our hard work for some populist considerations.
All the elements of the Joint Action Plan are complementary to each other. They need to be applied at the same time to reinforce one another. In this context, swift implementation of resettlement schemes and programmes is a must. This sends a strong message to the refugees that there are legal channels to reach Europe.
On the other hand, we hope that NATO activity in support of international efforts to cut the lines of trafficking and illegal migration in the Aegean Sea will help alleviate the ongoing humanitarian tragedy. Of course, all phases of NATO’s support in this regard will be subject to close coordination and consultation with the Allies concerned, throughout the planning, preparation and conduct of the activity. It is extremely critical that any activity of NATO in the Aegean Sea should not prejudge our national positions regarding the Aegean disputes.
Indeed, NATO has a long-standing principle and policy of not getting involved in bilateral issues of legal and political nature between Allies, and we expect NATO’s activity to be conducted accordingly. On the other hand, during the planning, preparation and conduct of this activity, cooperation between SNMG-2 and FRONTEX should be governed by a practical arrangement at the operational and tactical level. Such a cooperation should also in no way prejudge our national positions regarding the Aegean issues.
These challenging times show us over and over again with daunting regularity that cooperation and integration between us is indispensable. The future of our region requires it.
Let us not forget that, as was previously agreed, our cooperation on migration constitutes only one aspect of our relations. Turkey has prepared for opening other chapters to work towards reenergising relations in all fields. So far political reasons have been an impediment to our accession process.
If, as Turkey and the EU, we can keep our determination to be united against the threats surrounding us strong, I am confident we will surmount the worst of the crises in the medium-term. A future that sees Turkey’s membership to the EU, in this brave new world, is a natural outcome that would be a remedy for many of our ills and provide a stronger perspective for the future.