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"Talking Turkey" European Parliament Meeting
03/10/2007 - Viewed 1713 times

Ankara-based think-tank Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and Rome-based International Affairs Institute (IAI) have initiated "Talking Turkey" European Network Project with the intention of generating a better understanding of EU member states' public opinion towards Turkey as well as promoting a healthy communication strategy with European countries.

A report has been published presenting different dimensions of Turkey's integration integrating the approach of ten European capitals. On October 3rd 2007, a dissemination meeting was held in the European Parliament where TEPAV and IAI representatives and network members along with MEPs, the media, Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) executives and observers from different institutions and Embassies participated.

TOBB president, M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu within his opening remarks pointed out the importance of political will and positive leadership to build a positive image of Turkey in European pub lic opinion.Nathalie Tocci, the editor of the report, presented the report in detail. MEP Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck who is the ELDR President and ALDE Coordinator in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, commented on the report, placing particular emphasis into the support for Turkey's full membership. In the same vein, Mrs. Neyts-Uyttebroeck also underlined Turkey's obligation to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria. According to Neyts, the open-ended character of accession process should not generate ambiguity and frustration on the Turkish side. Rather than ignoring prejudices on the part of European public opinion, she pointed out that Turkey should acknowledge and work to overcome them. Co-President of the Greens/EFA Group, Daniel Cohn Bendit, and other MEPs indicated that the open ended nature of the accession process has not been set as a measure for Turkey, but become the natural outcome depending on the way EU evolves. Mr. Cohn-Bendit stressed that Turkey is a different country in terms of identity and size. He added that as a Muslim country it is crucial for Turkey to secure the secular structure of the country and combine it with a functioning democracy during the accession process. In the afternoon session of the meeting, Sencer Ayata, Professor of Sociology at Middle East Technical University (METU) and

TEPAV Director Güven Sak presented the political and economic outlook in Turkey. During the closing remarks, Deputy Chief of Turkey Desk at the European Commission Enlargement DG, Jean-Christophe Filori drew attention to the significance of the negotiations process for ongoing dialogue between the two parties. Mr. Filori stated the strategic importance of Turkey's membership has been acknowledged more every day. He also mentioned that Turkey has successfully passed a critical democracy test in the recent months. Filori also emphasized that a rapid reform process needs to be re-initiated to successfully complete the negotiation process.

Participants also stressed the importance for Turkey to be involved more with the discussions regarding its accession process to contribute more to the knowledge and understanding of EU-Turkey relations. In this sense, IAI - TEPAV partnership has been praised to facilitate a healthy communication strategy to be launched between Turkey and the EU by providing a solid platform for civil society dialogue.

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