EUCO 121/13 1 ENEUROPEAN COUNCIL – THE PRESIDENT – Ankara, 23 May 2013

Remarks by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy after his meeting with Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Let me first of all say that it is both a pleasure and a privilege to visit Ankara. And I would like to thank Prime Minister Erdoğan for his invitation and kind hospitality. Earlier today, I also had the pleasure of meeting President Gül.

Allow me briefly to highlight a few key points from today’s meetings: first and foremost, we all want to strengthen further the ties between Turkey and the European Union. Turkey is a candidate to the EU. We share geography and history. Member States and Turkey are together members of numerous international organisations, including NATO. We have common interests, broad economic cooperation and profound people-to-people relations.

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Ankara Agreement of Association with the European Union. We should use it to rebuild momentum in the accession process. Last December, all 27 heads of state and government of the European Union reconfirmed their commitment to Turkey’s accession process. And we should shortly see the opening of a new chapter in the negotiations, the first since 2010. I hope more will follow soon.

We welcome Turkey’s continued reform efforts. Significant progress has been made already, including in judicial reforms and with the broad-based work that continues on constitutional reform in the Parliament. In this context, I recall the importance that the EU attaches to fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression.

Visa liberalisation is an important goal on our immediate agenda. It is a step that will knit our societies closer together. It will provide fresh and significant momentum to our relations. I trust that the signature by Turkey of the readmission agreement with the European Union would allow us to advance quickly through the roadmap leading to visa free travel for Turkish citizens.

Allow me to commend the Prime Minister for the courage and vision he has shown promoting a solution process to end the threat of terror from the PKK. This is the best chance in a generation to resolve a conflict, which has claimed far too many lives. The EUfully supports these efforts.

Turkey’s dynamic economy contributes to the prosperity of the entire European continent.

Turkey remains a valuable part of Europe’s competitiveness. Last year (2012) our trade totalled € 115 billion. The EU is Turkey’s biggest trading partner. And Turkey is the EU’s sixth biggest trading partner. Almost 75% of foreign direct investment that flows into Turkey – with a strong high-technology component – comes from the EU. And Turkey is an important member of and partner in G20, alongside the EU.

Turkey is a key international partner and ally for the European Union. Its regional role and active involvement in its wider neighbourhood deserve special acknowledgement and is irreplaceable. We are committed to further enhance our political dialogue on foreign policy issues of common interest, such as developments in North Africa, the Middle East, the Gulf, the Western Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Southern Caucasus and the Horn of Africa.

I am equally grateful for the exchanges we have had on the terrible crisis which affects Syria and on our efforts to work for a solution. Turkey is bearing the brunt of the consequences of this tragedy. It has opened its borders to those fleeing violence. It is leading in humanitarian support and playing a key role in efforts to find a political solution.

The EU supports a restart of the Geneva talks. Again, I wish to commend the Prime

Minister, as well as the Turkish people, for the solidarity and vision.

The despicable terrorist attacks in Reyhanli, which the European Union firmly condemns, are a clear reminder of the dangers involved and the price Turkey is paying. Let me reiterate in this regard the full solidarity of the European Union and its citizens. We will continue working with Turkey as well as with other partners and allies in order to re-establish peace and stability in Syria. The European Union will maintain its important humanitarian contribution and stands ready to support reconstruction efforts.

I also have to reiterate the importance of finding a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus issue. The EU supports a comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus conflict within the UN framework, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.

To conclude, my visit today symbolises the importance the European Union attaches to its relations with Turkey in all its dimensions. The goal of the European Union is to further reinvigorate this relationship and to advance substantially the various processes in which it is reflected, including the accession process.

Therefore, I am honoured that the Prime Minister has accepted my invitation to come to Brussels in the coming months in order to follow up on today’s fruitful discussions and continue to progress on our common agenda. Thank you, tesekkür ederim.