It is Turkey's strategic goal to join the European Union as a full member to the benefit of both sides, and the ongoing migrant crisis has proven that we need each other not only for the sake of economic progress but also because of stability and security, Turkish Ambassador to Croatia Ahmet Tuta said in Zagreb on Friday.
Becoming an EU member is a strategic option for us. This migrant crisis has shown that both sides need each other, and if Turkey remains alone, this will certainly not contribute to the security of Europe, the Turkish diplomat said during a panel discussion on the relations between the 28-strong bloc and Turkey, organised by the Information Office of the European Parliament in Zagreb.
During the discussion, involving Croatian members of the European Parliament, Andrej Plenkovic and Davor Skrlec and Croatian political pundits, Ambassador Tuta said that he expected Turkey's full EU membership and not a privileged partnership.
He said that Europe should not ignore the strategic importance of its relations with Turkey and recalled recent eventful developments in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Russia and Greece.
And we are in the middle of all that, the Turkish diplomat stressed, adding that global and regional threats require concerted action by Turkey and the European Union.
Civil wars and conflicts in the region bear witness to the fact that Turkey is a key to Europe's political and economic stability, while Turkey's membership of the EU is important for the country's stability, according to the ambassador's address.
In the same vein, the Turkish ministry of EU affairs notes in its document "Turkey's New European Union Strategy" that Ankara believes that "the EU will adopt a vision that suits its global power rather than inward-facing policies, while furthering enlargement negotiations and pursuing a harmonious neighbourhood policy."
"Turkey will continue to progress and determinedly pursue its objective of membership in a period that affirms our 'Strong Turkey, Strong EU' perspective," reads the strategy.
Croatian MEP Andrej Plenkovic recalled the 50-year-long journey of Turkey towards the European bloc that started in 1963 with the signing of the Ankara Agreement on creating an association between Turkey and the then European Economic Community.
Turkey submitted an application for the status of candidate in 1987 and was granted that status in 1990, Plentovic said.
In 2005, Turkey and Croatia opened accession negotiations with the EU. The Croatian MEP described the ongoing Turkey-EU relations "as an arranged engagement that has lasted very, very long". However, Plenkovic hopes that the finish of this engagement will be special.
Plenkovic welcomed an action plan concluded between the EU and Turkey in late November at a Brussels summit which he saw as an act of "turning a new page in the negotiating process".
The first result of the invigorated process is the opening of the policy chapter on the economic and monetary union, he added.
Plenkovic does not believe that the negotiations have been invigorated "out of necessity" as claimed by some who believe the EU is trying to make Turkey step up cooperation in rationing the refuge influx. He said that EU cooperation with Turkey was necessary as this was cooperation with a partner country.
As for culture and world-view matters, Ambassador Tuta said that Turkey wants to be a part of secular Europe populated by Christians, Jews and Muslims.