Turkey’s desire to foster stronger links with the European defence establishment is being frustrated by an apparent reluctance from the European Union (EU) to fully engage with the country, a senior government official said on 2 December.
Speaking at the 13th annual Berlin Security Conference (BSC) in the German capital city, Turkey’s defence minister Ismet Yilmaz said that the country has proven its commitment to co-operating with Europe through its membership of NATO and other governmental and military institutions, but that this is not being fully reciprocated.
“Turkey has always supported partnerships and EU/NATO relations, and attached great importance to those relations. Turkey has actively supported the development of the EU’s Common Security & Defence Policy from the outset, both as a candidate country and as a NATO ally, and Turkey has taken part in all of the European operations to which it has been invited. Turkey has also shown her willingness and determination to support the EU initiatives in developing its defence capabilities, including the formation in 2010 of the European Defence Agency [EDA] battle groups,” he said.
He added: “However, the EU has not quite been working for closer co-operation with Turkey, and the conditions of [co-operation] documents have not been fully implemented – Turkey has not been invited to be involved in the preparation and implementation of EU defence co-operation to which Turkey has contributed.”
According to Yilmaz, key points of frustration have been Turkey’s exclusion from the EDA, and the failure to sign agreements on exchanging classified information. “We strongly believe that non-EU NATO allies [in Europe] should be involved in the EU defence initiative, and to be part of the decision making process,” he noted.
As Yilmaz noted, with Europe and NATO facing increasingly complex global security challenges while grappling with shrinking defence budgets, it is all the more important that a new level of multinational co-operation is embraced so as to provide effective security.