Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, has said that Turkey remains committed to closer ties with the European Union despite strains in the relationship, and wants to deepen a customs union to become the bloc’s third largest trade partner.
Turkey’s relations with Europe have deteriorated over demands it amend its anti-terrorism laws on human rights grounds under a deal to curb migration, prompting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month to angrily warn: “We’re going our way, you go yours.”
“Despite all the noise, I think it is in our interests to remain anchored to Europe,” Simsek told Reuters in an interview in his office in Ankara, when asked about a possible “Brexit.”
“From our perspective, we see Europe as a source of inspiration, as a reference point when it comes to strengthening the rule of law, enhancing standards of democracy … and I don’t see a substitute to the EU in Turkey’s near geography.”
However, he described as “unfair” the EU’s insistence that Turkey softens its anti-terrorism laws to gain visa-free travel, part of a wider deal on migration which has helped stem the flow of illegal migrants via Turkey to European shores. “Our European partners should understand us,” Simsek argued.