Delivering a speech at the meeting on "EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue on the Contribution of Chambers: Turkey-EU Chamber Forum Project" held under the cooperation of The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) and The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (EUROCHAMBERS), Turkish State Minister and Chief Negotiator for the European Union, Egemen Bagis stated that an intense work has started after his appointment.
In his speech, referring to the official visit of himself and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Brussels on Sunday, Bagis stated that this would be the first Turkey-EU bilateral summit since 1996.
Bagis stated that under the philosophy of full membership negotiations with the EU lied Turkey's target to become a more powerful and prosperous country and that the EU project could only be realized by full support of all institutions and the society. On the other hand, while such a consensus was reached within Turkey, Bagis emphasized that they expected the same consensus within the EU.
Citing the criticism of a slow down in the pace of reforms, Bagis talked about Turkey's National Program which was supported by all institutions, the restoration of the citizenship of Nazim Hikmet, the establishment of a new state television channel that would broadcast in different ethic languages, and the establishment of a State Ministry responsible for the EU Affairs and said that they wanted the EU to response to these improvements recorded within 10-15 days.
Bagis, indicating that all kinds of future enlargements of the EU needed to be supported by a strong, profound and sustainable dialogue between the societies of the EU members and candidate countries, besides the EU institutions, explained that "the civil society dialogue will increase the communication; ensure the civil society to contribute to political, cultural and economic developments in Turkey; bring together different cultures, political and economic systems; alleviate lack of information; thus introduce the opportunities as well as the difficulties that the future accessions would create".
Bagis reminded that there were over 4 million Turkish nationals living in Europe and said that they were promoting not the assimilation but the integration of these nationals and at the same time tens of thousands of Europeans living in Turkey were playing an important role in the dialogue between the societies.
Bagis made the following statements regarding the visa problem: "It is really sad. But we should also collaborate against these. Nowadays we are in a period of being powerful rather than being righteous. We need to be strong within ourselves. It is not appropriate if voices and messages of each of us differ. Naturally, good functioning of consultation mechanisms between our state, government, opposing parties, businesses and non-governmental organizations is important. We will stand side by side as a united voice in the negotiations. I believe this peace, the harmony and maintaining common interests and stakes together is very important."
Bagis indicated that the trade relations play an important role in developing political relations and said that the businessmen have a major role in this respect.
Minister for EU Affairs Bagis continued his speech as follows: "We sincerely want Turkey to attain a full democracy. If more democracy creates risks, we are ready to undertake those risks. But they (EU) should also be fair in this period. The rules of the game should not be changed while the game continues. We are ready to face the conditions the candidate countries before us encountered in carrying out these negotiations until acquiring the full membership. We realise this for our country and nation to attain deserved standards. Currently Turkey is in the process being transformed from being "a sick man of Europe" to a respected member of the EU. We will experience some problems in the course of the full membership process, however we are decisive and determined in this respect. We also know that there is no single country that started negotiations but was not able to finish them. Turkey has never been an exception and will not be so now. Turkey will be a very different Turkey when the negotiations are over. The EU will also be a different Europe. Instead of imagining that day now, let's focus on today, negotiations and our business."