"My City" project which will include 5 Turkish cities in the cultural map of Europe was introduced with a ceremony held in the British Embassy in Ankara.
The project, supported by the European Commission and carried out by the British Council, will be implemented in the cities of Mardin, Çanakkale, Trabzon, Konya and Istanbul.
Speaking at the ceremony at which the governors and mayors of those five cities were also present, Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis indicated that there were three important pillars in the negotiation process with the EU which were reforms, negotiations and civil society dialogue.
Emphasizing on the importance of civil society dialogue, Bagis said that art and culture constituted the most important parts of that dialogue and the countries having a strong democracy were developed countries in terms of arts and culture and that could not be a coincidence.
Stating that Turkey made more and more progress in its culture and arts, Bagis said: "Turkey is not a country where prime ministers are executed after military coups or books of Kafka and Dostoyevsky are collected for making propaganda of communism as was the situation 30 years ago or mayors are put into jail for reading poems as happened 10 years ago, anymore. Today, that mayor has become the leader of Turkey and that city, Istanbul, being considered as the most important platform of freedom of speech, is the European capital of culture and arts."
Indicating that Turkey had to take important steps and make reforms decisively in its EU accession process, Bagis said: "Turkey needs to prepare a constitution and put reform laws in to force which it deserves, with the cooperation of the government and the opposition."
Stating that he believed Turkey at last would finalise the negotiations successfully and be a respectful member of the EU, Bagis said: Some opposition groups both within the country and abroad would do their best to make Turkey give up its struggle in this process but we will complete this process with patience and with the support of our friends."
Expressing his wish to complete his speech with a statement special to Turkish culture, Bagis said: One of the greatest architectural buildings in Turkey is the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. They say that one hammer would be enough to take Selimiye down but to construct the Selimiye you would need both Selim and the architect Sinan. In Turkey's EU accession process, with the cooperation of our friends such as UK and Miliband we will accomplish greater works.
British Foreign Minister David Miliband indicated that the project was an important step taken to introduce some towns of Turkey which are not known well in Europe and he emphasised on the importance of arts and culture to change the general understanding. Miliband said: "This project is the indicator of Turkey's gradually developing relations with the EU."