By Cansu Çamlıbel – ROME
Recent developments in the Middle East ramp up the importance of Turkey’s membership for the EU, Italy’s state secretary for EU affairs Sandro Gozi said, vowing to revive Turkey’s stalling membership process.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the daily Hürriyet, Gozi said the real motivation behind granting membership candidacy to Turkey was external security and economic interests between the EU and Turkey, as well as support to the transformation and modernization of Turkish society.
According to the Italian parliamentarian recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East has made Turkey’s membership bid even more crucial.
“[Turkey’s] membership is much more important than 10 years ago because of [the recent turmoil and violence in] Syria and Iraq and the strong economic integration between the EU and Turkey,” Gozi said, whilst being interviewed by the daily Hürriyet’s Cansu Çamlıbel.
The EU should “think how and why we have granted candidate status to Turkey,” according to Gozi, who repeatedly asserted that Italy is “probably the most convinced country [in the EU] that Turkey should become a member state.”
However, the politician stressed there are crucial steps that need to be taken by Turkey to assure the EU over some issues, with the accession strategy being one of them. “We also still need to favor the modernization of Turkish democracy and society, because we have [recently] seen some signs of instability in Turkey. We think that the re-launch of the accession strategy could also help the country to tackle these issues,” he said.
Regarding the issues that need to be tackled, Gozi said, “We want to have a clear idea over the independence of the judiciary and prosecutors [and] the freedom of the media and social media [in Turkey].”
He said this is why Italy believes that Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) should be opened.
Gozi also preserves his optimism regarding the Turkish government’s determination for the EU bid, which has been criticized by civil society actors.
“We know that Turkey has been going through a very difficult internal phase. But we fundamentally believe that there is still an interest,” he said.
He said Turkey’s recent attempts to warm relations with Greek Cyprus and Armenia are signs of Turkey’s EU commitment.
“We interpret this progress as not only corresponding to a national interest of Ankarabut also for Turkey to play a new role for better relations with the EU. Because for us, Armenian and Cyprus issue are important,” he said.