Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will reaffirm Turkey's commitment to full membership in the European Union in his first visit to Brussels in five years, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu said on Monday, Today's Zaman reported.
"Turkey wants to be a full member of the EU. We have met our obligations so far and we will continue to do that with determination," Cavushoglu said to journalists after meeting with Norwegian ambassador Janis Bjorn Kanavin at the EU Ministry.
Cavushoglu and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will accompany Erdogan on his visit to Brussels.
"Prime Minister Erdogan's visit to Brussels is meaningful. Erdogan said 2014 will be the EU year for Turkey. Turkey's relations with the EU have gained momentum and the environment has become positive, with Turkey's progress report and the recent agreements on readmission and the start of visa liberalization dialogue. A new chapter was opened after three and a half years. So we need to continue this positive momentum," said Cavushoglu, speaking to the AHaber television channel on Monday.
The visit was planned some time ago because of the newly recovered momentum in Turkey-EU relations, with the recent start of a visa liberalization dialogue in exchange for a readmission agreement signed with the EU.
But relations have become tense after a corruption investigation, as part of which businessmen close to the government and the sons of three ministers have been detained. EU officials have been critical of the government's response to the investigation, especially a draft bill introduced by the government to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the country's key judicial council, which is responsible for appointments, promotions and removals in the judiciary.
The proposal, according to its critics, seeks to subordinate the HSYK to the government by increasing the justice minister's power over the HSYK and thus curbing the authority of the board. The bill will give the government a tighter grip on the judiciary, according to critics.
All these developments have heightened the EU's worries about the erosion of judicial independence in Turkey, which has been a candidate for membership since 2005.
"The HSYK draft bill is compatible with the Copenhagen criteria," said Cavushoglu in an interview with AHaber TV on Monday. The Copenhagen criteria define whether a country is eligible to join the EU, and independence and impartiality of the judiciary, separation of powers, preservation of democratic governance and human rights are among these criteria.
"When you say the Copenhagen criteria, which criteria are you talking about? The Copenhagen criteria determine the general structure. From the general definition, it does not say the HSYK should be in a certain way. There is no standard," he said.
Turkey's message to the EU will be to continue the positive momentum, Cavushoglu said, adding that Turkey also expects the EU to take positive steps, open new chapters and find a formula to remove the obstructions caused by certain EU members.
Cavushoglu said he is optimistic about Greece's EU presidency and that he expects at least one chapter to be opened in that period. "It would be even better if we open two chapters. That is our hope. But there are no guarantees," he added.
Cavushoglu said the EU is receiving biased information on developments in Turkey and stressed that there is serious disinformation, as the opposition is complaining about Turkey all the time.
When asked about the report being prepared by the European Parliament, Cavushoglu said: "Our message to the European Parliament is, 'Do not take biased information and make statements.' The report should be objective, if you want it to be taken seriously."
Cavushoglu said Turkey and the EU can resolve all issues through dialogue and mutual understanding.