H. E. Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, appeared at a special event at the Bled Strategic Forum. In a speech entitled Gradual Disintegration of the EU Political Orbit and a New Geopolitical Configuration of the Euro-Asian Space, he criticised the EU’s conduct towards his country and its failings in general. He urged the EU to reform and start perceiving Turkey as an equal partner.
The EU had long been a defender of liberal democracy and human rights, but in the past ten years it has lost credibility with its failure to respond to the crises in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. It also lacks leadership. Instead of adopting a single model to deal with the migration crisis, individual countries are building fences, Mr Çavuşoğlu pointed out.
Additionally, there has been a rise of racism, xenophobia and islamophobia, which are no longer fringe phenomena, but were rather “adopted by mainstream politicians”, which has normalised extremism and intolerance. The result is a gap between the notion of what the EU can do and reality, which is affecting the bloc’s credibility, Mr Çavuşoğlu said.
According to him, the EU needs to regain its transformational capacity, which had in the past manifested itself in enlargement, the biggest source of its soft power. However, it needs to change its conduct, he said in reference to Turkey’s EU accession talks, which he said were little but the adoption of EU standards with virtually no negotiations.
“Unlike two decades ago, there are new regional and global powers…The EU needs to change its perceptions,” he said. Having been founded to establish a balance of power between Germany and France, it now needs to accommodate and perceive “third countries as equals”. “At this age, nobody wants to hear lectures…if policies are imposed unilaterally irrespective of differences…this can only create divisions,” he said.
While critical of the EU, Turkey is nevertheless interested in membership since Europe is “the most stable, the most developed and the most democratic” continent. However, in order for Turkey to join, the EU needs to become “dynamic and courageous” as well as inclusive, multicultural and multireligious.