Article Of Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister Of Foreign Affairs Of Rep. Of Turkey, Published In "publico" Newspaper On 14.07.2010

Lizbon Büyükelçiliği 14.07.2010

For Turks, Portugal is known first and foremost by its brave seamen like Vasco da Gama who succeeded in exploring sea routes that opened new paths in world history. These critical explorations have dramatically shaped the following chapters of humanity.

Although Portugal is an ocean country, it is impossible to imagine a Mediterranean without Portugal. Turkey and Portugal, two countries situated at the two ends of the Mediterranean shared a history of competition, cooperation and mutual respect. Our political relations date back to 1843 when Viscount de Seixal was appointed as the first Portuguese envoy to Istanbul. He was among the fourteen diplomatic representatives then residing in the city. Since then, our relations have been strengthening in a steady manner, fueled by mutual respect and sympathy between our peoples.

Today, I am happy to witness that our two countries have much in common. Besides the striking similarity of the picturesque landscape of Lisbon and Istanbul and the friendliness, generosity and sincerity that describe both our peoples, we share the universal values such as democracy, pluralism and freedom that identify Europe. The two countries also enjoy a substantial level of outreach and depth in political, economic and cultural domains that goes well beyond their immediate surroundings.

Portugal’s application for full membership to the EU in 1977 helped anchoring it to its natural geo-political area, Europe, and to the fundamental values that define European identity. Its membership in 1986 had consequences beyond the frontiers of Europe and enabled it to spread these values overseas more effectively, in particular towards Portuguese speaking countries of Africa and Latin America.

Similarly, Turkey is a natural gateway that links Europe with the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia. Besides that, it has its own cultural ties, economic and social bonds with these regions. In other words, just as EU membership consolidated the democratic acquis of Portugal and increased its influence on Portuguese speaking countries of Africa and Latin America, so too, will Turkey’s accession to the Union have a positive impact on a vast area where Turkey is perceived as a model.

Turkey’s EU membership will also provide the fresh energy and dynamism that the Union will need in the future. Our membership will present an opportunity for the EU to enhance its global status. Turkey and the EU share the same outlook for the future of our continent: a Europe that strengthens its soft power and advances its universal values; that is not monolithic; that promotes diversity; that is a confident actor in global politics. Turkey’s membership will help Europe translate this vision into reality.

Within the EU, Portugal has adopted a principled approach as regards the debate on Turkey’s accession, which we very much appreciate. Portugal has been advocating the conduct of relations with Turkey according to the principle of pacta sunt servanda, a central pillar of the European integration project. It believes, like us, that the EU’s gift to bring about democratic transformation in accession countries can only work its magic if the process is fair and credible. Portugal is also fully cognizant of Turkey’s role in helping to integrate its neighborhood, economically, socially and politically, into the global economy, thus furthering European interests in many ways.

If I were asked to discern broader reasons for Portugal’s staunch support for Turkish accession, I would start by citing the convergence of the two countries’ expectations from EU membership. Mediterranean solidarity would also stand out as a good motivator.

But above all, I would salute the visionary stance of the political classes which see Turkey as an asset rather than a liability for the European integration process. At this point I believe the following words by President Cavaco Silva during his address to the Turkish Parliament on 12 May 2010, best capture the essence of this vision:

“With Turkey’s accession - besides the enrichment brought by the integration of a great nation with a multifaceted cultural reality - the European Union gains a growing strategic relevance, which will allow it to act with much greater weight in areas which are fundamental for its collective future.”

Evidently, there is still ground for us to cover in terms of reforms. But we remain determined to fulfill our share on the road towards our eventual membership. Let us, however, not forget that this is a two-way relationship. The Union must also abide by its commitments to Turkey and insulate the accession process from artificial obstacles. For, this endeavor is a unique chance for making history the right way that neither side can afford to pass up.


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