'EU cannot achieve goal of being power hub without Turkey'
The European Union cannot achieve its goal of becoming a power hub without Turkey, the nation’s president said on Thursday.
"It is not possible for the EU to achieve its goal of becoming the center of attraction and power without Turkey as a full member," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an address to a South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Turkey's Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.
"Despite all the injustices we have faced, we want our struggle for full (EU) membership – which we have persistently and patiently continued for half a century – to come to a conclusion," he added.
Ankara expects the EU to "immediately rid itself of its strategic blindness,” and to advance the accession process within the framework of a positive agenda, he said.
The EU’s decision to start accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a step in the right direction, he said, but called it a “major shortcoming that the decision still has not fully been put into practice.”
He also said Turkey hopes the European Union will continue to support Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo and successfully concludes accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia.
Attempts at artificial separating the Western Balkans from Turkey in the integration process cannot be reconciled with common values, he said.
The SEECP was not established only to develop political and security cooperation and to boost economic relations, Erdogan said, adding that the process also aims to strengthen cooperation in areas such as democracy, justice, and the fight against illegal activities.
Turkey has always considered cooperation and common interests in its bilateral and multilateral activities in Southeastern Europe, he stressed, adding that the Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia and Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia tripartite mechanisms are the best examples of this.
"Our regional initiatives are in no way a competitor or alternative to other initiatives," he stressed.
Stressing Turkey's important role in European energy, Erdogan said the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) strengthens the energy security of Southeastern Europe as well as the rest of Europe.
With the completion of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), the southern gas corridor became the fourth main line carrying natural gas to Europe, he said.
Inaugurated in 2019, TANAP has a capacity of 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) to deliver 6 bcm to Turkey. Another 10 bcm is delivered to Europe via TAP.
TAP began the transport of commercial gas from Azerbaijan to Europe last Dec. 31. It connects with the 878-kilometer (546-mile) TANAP at the Turkish-Greek border in Kipoi and crosses Greece and Albania and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in Southern Italy.
He went on say that the TurkStream -- a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Turkey -- supports the energy security and regional economic development of Southeastern Europe as well as Turkey.
Fight against terrorism
Also stressing Turkey’s readiness to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, Erdogan said: "We are always ready to share experience and knowledge with countries of the region in the fight against all forms of terrorism."
On the issue of irregular migration, he said: “As Southeast European countries, we do not have the luxury of being indifferent to irregular migration flows."
Turkey is currently a safe haven for more than 4 million refugees, 3.7 million of whom are Syrians, he said, adding: "We provide aid and protection to 9 million people, including internally displaced people in Syria."
"Unfortunately, we don’t get the necessary support from the international community in terms of irregular migration and protecting oppressed Syrians," he said.
On the migration crisis, he said: "One of the reflections of the migration crisis is the escalation of hate speech."
Criticizing the rise in racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment worldwide, he said this is turning into a national security problem.
"Southeastern Europe also suffers from these threats and challenges. In this regard, it is of great importance that we focus on projects that will enable our citizens to get to know each other and their cultures better," he said.
There are friendly countries that volunteer to host clinical trials of Turkey's own prospective vaccines, he said, adding: "We will be pleased with the cooperation of our friends in the SEECP on this issue."
Turkey has hosted a wide range of activities on health, trade, migration management, and security, strengthening infrastructure, and advancing cultural partnerships, said Erdogan.
"These efforts boost the effectiveness of the cooperation process and strengthen the cooperation environment among us," he said.
This year’s SEECP summit under Turkey’s term presidency also marks the group’s 25th anniversary.
The SEECP brings together Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Croatia, Moldova and Montenegro and “is a symbol of the common will of the countries of the region to improve cooperation among themselves and to bring lasting stability in South East Europe,” according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Greece will take over the term presidency of the SEECP for a year as of July 1, 2021.
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