Former EU official: Turkey now more important for EU

Thursday, April 24, 2014

EU’s former enlargement chief calls for reviving Turkey’s membership talks, says Ukrainian crisis has further increased the country's strategic importance.

EU’s former enlargement chief calls for reviving Turkey’s membership talks, says Ukrainian crisis has further increased the country's strategic importance.

BERLIN – The European Union's former enlargement chief, Guenther Verheugen, has called for reviving Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks as risks grow of a new division in Europe due to the Ukrainian crisis.

“I am more convinced than ever that the accession of Turkey is extremely important for the future of not only Turkey but also the European Union,” Verheugen said in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency.

“We should make every possible effort to get rid of the present blockage that we currently have and to keep process running again,” he said.

Verheugen, a prominent German politician who led the Eastern enlargement of the EU in 2004, has warned that the recent Ukrainian crisis and Russia’s intervention has created the risk of a new division in Europe.

“It is too early to make a judgment on whether we are really witnessing at the beginning a new era of confrontation in Europe,” Verheugen urged. “Everybody should regret this, but I cannot exclude it”.

The EU’s former enlargement chief said recent developments had once again increased the importance of Turkey for the EU.

“Whether we will find a way to accommodate problems with Russia and to get Russia positively engaged in the solution of the European problems or whether it will not be the case. ... for Turkey it means that the strategic importance of the country is increasing again,” Verheugen said.

“The geographic position of Turkey, the economic strength of Turkey, the very healthy demographic situation of Turkey makes it more or less a center of gravity in the whole area, and that will not disappear,” he said.

Verheugen has criticized the EU for serious failures in its policy towards Ukraine.  

“Everybody made mistakes here," he said. "The government in Kiev made mistakes. Russia made mistakes. And the EU made also a lot of mistakes.

Verheugen criticized the EU’s unqualified support two years ago for former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

“The most important mistake was that the EU rejected to sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine in 2012 when the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ready to sign it,” Verheugen said. “Now everybody is silent about it but I think we should not forget the reason why this agreement cannot be signed and the reason why Russia got the possibility to step in. It was the Tymoshenko case,” he said.

“We did it for Ms. Tymoshenko…and she is the one who is now telling the public that Russia must be eliminated from the world. She is the one who tells the public that she wants to shoot Mr. Putin by herself. … So just to understand for whom we did it. ... That was a first big mistake,” Guenther Verheugen said.  “And the other mistake certainly was that the people in Brussels obviously did not fully understand the complexity of the political and economic situation in Ukraine.”

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