Turkey and the European Union

14th European Dialogue - May 26, 2016

On Thursday, the 26th of May 2016, the Foundation organised its 14th European Dialogue. It was dedicated to the issue of Turkey and the European Union.

In front of an audience of about 250 people and around Pat Cox, President of the Foundation, former president of the European Parliament and of the  European Movement International, the participants of the Dialogue were Engin Soysal ambassador and undersecretary of Turkey Ministry for EU Affairs and Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. The ambassador Soysal replace minister Volkan Bozkir who couldn’t come to Lausanne.

The film of the event and a photogallery are available on this page.

Around Pat Cox, President of the Foundation, former president of the European Parliament and of the  European Movement International that facilitated the event, Mr. Engin Soysal and Mr. Elmar Brok also spoke.

After Pat Cox’s opening statement, Engin Soysal, Undersecretary of Turkey Ministry for EU Affairs made an opening speech based on the thematic of the dialogue. He stressed two key issues concerning Turkey’s relations with the European Union: the need to set them into their context for better understanding and the major projects adopted in this framework.

To Engin Soysal who expressed great delight to take the floor during the discussions, Turkey-EU relations should be understood with regard to their background, as Turkey opted to cooperate with The Six in 1959, before submitting an official request to join the European Union in 1987. This shows that Turkey has observed and supported the European integration process. According to him, there is an integration dynamic in Turkey-EU relationships. Therefore, there is need to constantly adjust them so as to keep in line both EU objectives and to be informed of efforts made by Turkey today, more than ever, especially with the unfolding turmoil in the Middle-East and the ensuing migration crisis.

With regard to the necessary adjustments in Turkey-EU relations, the Undersecretary went on to talk about common projects as second key issue. He namely evoked the ground covered by Turkey in modernizing Custom Union since 2005, and the resumption of EU accession talks, the major challenge being to return to the extraordinary enthusiasm observed about 10 years ago. Mr Soysal ended up his speech on the visa liberalisation issue.

Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, is the following person who engaged in the same exercise. He first referred to Jean Monnet’s works and ideas especially in the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) meant to prevent new conflicts in Europe, and expressed joy and pride to be able to take part to the dialogue. He went on with EU’s need to continuously adapt to emerging challenges stemming from the crises it experiences, whether exogenous –like the financial crisis- or endogenous. Despite EU does not have necessary means to face those crises, it progressively creates them. The Union is currently facing a terrible migration crisis and this is where Ankara’s intervention at the highest level is crucial, as Turkey shares common interests with EU, including Custom Union and possible Free Trade Agreement with USA and particularly the Syrian crisis settlement that cannot be successful without joint action of Turkey and the EU.

Nonetheless, Elmar Brok says it is important to make a clear-cut between EU’s common challenges with Ankara, and Turkey’s domestic situation. He underscored that Turkish politics neither favours good relations with EU nor helps Turkey fulfil the criteria for membership. The next step of the event took the form of a debate between Engin Soysal and Elmar Brok which Pat Cox facilitated. They addressed issues like EU-Turkey Refugee Deal, visa liberalization, anti-terrorism law as well as solutions that can help find a common ground between the parties. The debate equally focussed on Turkey’s accession, the major motivations behind its relationship with the EU as well as the way members of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs react to Turkey shuffles.

At the end of the dialogue, which brought together some 250 people, before the concluding observations of the debate, by president Cox, there was a question-and-answer session between the audience and the speakers.

Dialogue’s opening by Pat Cox, president of the Foundation, former president of the European Parliament and of the European Movement International

Engin Soysal’s contribution

Elmar Brok’s contribution

Discussion between Engin Soysal and Elmar Brok, facilitated by Pat Cox

Discussion with the audience

Concluding remarks by Pat Cox