Reiterating Sweden’s support for Turkey’s accession to the EU, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stated that the EU would be a stronger global player if Turkey joined its ranks, as he met with his Turkish counterpart on Sunday to discuss Turkey’s process of accession to the European bloc, as part of an official visit to Turkey.
“It is up to Turkey to decide what is best for itself, but the EU with Turkey on board would be a stronger, more effective and dynamic global player,” Bildt said, adding that the country is one of the two most important strategic partners of the EU, alongside the US, the Anatolia news agency reported on Sunday. Bildt, a frequent visitor to Turkey, which hosts almost half a million Swedish tourists each year, once again voiced his support for the negotiation process between Turkey and the EU, and expressed hope that the obstacles in Turkey’s path to accession will be cleared.
Speaking about plans to arrange visa-free travel between the EU and Turkey, Bildt noted that the visa-free travel should be implemented in order to keep up the positive dialogue between both sides, but noted that under the current Schengen arrangement, such a comprehensive solution does not seem attainable. Bildt suggested that instead of a one-step solution, arrangements could be made between Turkey and individual European countries, with Sweden leading the way to set an example and ease its visa process with Turkey.
“Turkey is emerging as a very important partner, when you think about the developments in the Middle East and Africa, and Turkey’s role in them,” Anatolia quoted Bildt as saying, and proposed that the dialogue should be enriched to benefit both sides. Reiterating that Turkey and the US are the major strategic partners of the EU, Bildt added that Turkey is even more important than the US, since “Turkey is a European country,” and an EU candidate, and for that reason, Sweden extends its staunch and exclusive support for Turkey’s membership.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking after the meeting, said that what Turkey expects from the EU is that it will authorized the complete lifting of visa procedures for Turkey and begin negotiations to that end. Reminding reporters that Sweden is the strongest supporter of Turkey’s bid to join the EU, Davutoğlu said that he and Bildt discussed ways to create “a positive agenda” between Turkey and the EU, and overcome the obstacles on Turkey’s path to accession.
“The most suitable grounds for creating a positive agenda would be a visa waiver, in light of the political barriers blocking the negotiation chapters,” Davutoğlu suggested, and noted that it was during Sweden’s rotating presidency in 2009 that the issue of waiving visas came under extensive discussion around defined criteria. Davutoğlu also acknowledged that some countries stood up against waiving visas for Turkey, and while there were efforts to resolve that issue, Turkey was in the meantime evaluating what could be done on a individual-country basis.
Bildt also had separate meetings with Turkish President Abdullah Gül and the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on Monday.
Sweden, a country of critical importance to Turkey among other European bloc countries, due to its strong support and leverage in the accession period, has also been home to a population of about 100,000 Turks for decades.
17 October 2011, Monday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA