Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments, Chapter 22, for Turkey's EU accession opened with an intergovernmental conference joined in Brussels on November 5. No new chapters had been opened in the past three years, mostly due to the Cyprus issue, and blocks by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who opposed Turkey's EU membership. Bagis told Germany's Zeit Online that Turkish economic performance has grown 6% on average in the past ten years and it is above avarage comapared to the EU. "The energy sources the EU needs are either in the north or the south of Turkey," he said. " If the EU does not want to cooperate with Turkey, it either needs to work with Russia or do with renewable energy resources." Stating that the biggest obstacle before Turkey's EU membership was prejudice, Bagis stressed that the EU needs Turkey as much as Turkey needs the EU. When asked about the prejudice for which he blames the EU, Bagis said "They consider Turkey as a poor, unsettled Muslim country." Meanwhile, Turkish Development Minister Cevdet Yilmaz said Turkey has already shown good progress on the newly opened regional policy chapter in the EU accession negotiations over the last decade.
"EU is preoccupied with its internal agenda in recent years. It is faced with serious economic problems and political discussions inside. This also partly affected Turkey-EU relations," said Yilmaz, in a speech at Turkey-EU intergovernmental conference in Brussels.
"Turkey has shown big progress on this chapter in the last ten years. These developments we made for the happiness of Turkish people have reflected very positively on our relations with the EU," he noted.
Yilmaz emphasized that Turkey had no technical problem but the political atmosphere has delayed the opening of the new chapter. "Investments from the central administration into Turkey's eastern and southeastern regions have exceeded 35 billion TL in the last ten years. That clearly manifests Turkey's progress on regional policy chapter," the minister said.
Hoping the opening of the next chapter would not take that much long, Yilmaz said that a new period that would further develop Turkey-EU relations has started on Tuesday.
Turkey has to conclude negotiations on 35 chapters to be a full EU member. Until now, Turkey has been able to open 13 out of 35, as one of the 13 temporarily closed.
Yilmaz said that Turkey would continue its reforms and regulations to comply with EU membership criteria without necessarily waiting for the opening of another chapter. "As long as we comply with the technical criteria, we can have speedy progress [on the EU bid] in a suitable political atmosphere. Time runs in favor of Turkey," he said.