Security dialogue with Türkiye benefits all: EU

Security dialogue with Türkiye benefits all: EU

Serkan Demirtaş – ANKARA
Security dialogue with Türkiye benefits all: EU

Intensifying security dialogue between Türkiye and the European Union will be beneficial for all sides, especially in the context of regional conflicts, EU Ambassador to Türkiye Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut has said, emphasizing Türkiye’s role as a strategic partner.

“Türkiye is a candidate country to the European Union. Türkiye is a key NATO ally. Türkiye is a strategic partner here in the region. So, yes, I think we would all gain from intensifying our dialogue on security issues,” Meyer-Landrut told the Hürriyet Daily News in an exclusive interview on May 9, Europe Day.

Meyer-Landrut will leave Türkiye next month as his four-year term ends. During his farewell interview, he elaborated on the state of Türkiye-EU ties and the impact of regional conflicts, such as the Russian occupation of Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas war.

“24 February 2022 is a watershed moment for European history. This is also very important for Türkiye, of course, because Türkiye is a close neighbor of both countries too,” the ambassador said, recalling that many EU members are direct neighbors of Russia.

“For Europe, the European Union, for the European security architecture beyond the European Union, this unprovoked aggression has changed, has shattered the security order, which had gradually developed since the 1990s,” he underlined.

 Reengagement will help bilateral ties

On the current level of ties, the ambassador stated, “I think that at this stage, EU-Türkiye relations are not where they should be.

Describing Ankara-Brussels relations as complex, multifaceted and having their own history, the EU diplomat recalled that the full membership has its conditions and is a complex process. “But yes, I have seen many people in this country, for whom Europe, the European way of life is something very important. Although this may not immediately mean membership, there is clearly a significant part of the population which espouses what I would call the European aspiration,” he said.

On the future of ties, Meyer-Landrut has touched on the importance of bilateral engagement.

“I hope that reengagement in the different areas which have also been indicated by the Commission's report from last year and on which we are working will help both expand the level of engagement and thus help to build more trust on which then more cooperation can follow. This can only be a step-by-step approach. I would at this stage hope that gradually such a process can be put in practice in the months and years to come,” he said.

 ‘Many important developments took place’

Despite problems with Türkiye’s accession process, the past four years have marked important developments in the bilateral ties, the EU diplomat suggested.

“Türkiye has joined in recent years nine important EU programs as an associated member: Horizon, Erasmus, the Civil Corps, Digital Europe, among others. This is important because this brings actors from Türkiye and European actors together. They can make common projects, they can apply for common financing in research, and so on,” he stressed.

Besides, Türkiye and the EU have intensive cooperation in the field of climate change to mitigate its consequences in the Mediterranean, Meyer-Landrut said, also recalling Brussels’ support to Türkiye following the devastating earthquakes in 2023.

“These are things on which we have been working over the last years with concrete, tangible progress. We have also seen very spontaneous and significant support of the European Union and its member states to Türkiye in the aftermath of the terrible earthquakes of 6 February last year,” he said.

He added that Türkiye and the EU have worked together on migration and refugee issues and the support provided by the latter for Türkiye has now reached more than 10 billion euros.

The EU envoy has also reminded that three commissioners and two directors-general of the commission have visited Türkiye in recent days, stressing, “I think there are others who are planning to come. I think this is a clear confirmation of the fact that the Commission institutions, also in the context of his mandate from the European Council, want not only to reengage, but extend the scope of engagement with Türkiye on different issues. Now, we will see how this can be translated into specific actions.”

 Visa applications from Türkiye highest worldwide

On a question about the problems Turks are suffering in obtaining Schengen visas, Meyer-Landrut assured that “there is no policy in restraining access to visa for Turkish citizens.”

There has been an important increase in visa applications from Türkiye over the last two years, he recalled, “When I look at the figures are for 2023, and we still do not have the final aggregation of the figures from Brussels, the tendency we see is that the visa applications from Turkish nationals for Schengen visa will be the highest number worldwide.”

More than 1 million Turks have received visas and the refusal rate is not significantly changing compared to past years, the EU diplomat informed.

“Of course, the assessment of each individual Schengen application needs to be carried out by the competent authorities. Embassies have stepped up their staffing. Embassies have put in place fast lanes for businesspeople, for students, for researchers. Now this might not all be perfect,” he admitted. 

 ‘Fascinating four years’

Meyer-Landrut, whose term nears an end in Türkiye, has also shared his views and experiences he had during his tenure in Türkiye.

“It has been a fascinating four years in a fascinating country. I have had the opportunity in this position to travel a lot. Traveling in the country helps you to understand the diversity, history and geography,” he elaborated.

“I have also had the opportunity to appreciate the deep cultural roots, which you find in this country, starting from Mesopotamia, a term I prefer although it may not be a term that is always used, where you have the cradle of all civilization and then over thousands of years of our history, you can still see the traces. So, it was, for me personally, a unique opportunity to have had this chance to discover the country and its richness.”

Turkey, Interview,