By Ata Yusuf Hatip and Ufuk Seker
BRUSSELS (AA) - The European Union (EU) seems to have started to better appreciate the scope of the threat posed by the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its defeated coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, according to the Turkish envoy to the EU.
“We can see that the EU understands the defeated coup and FETO better compared to last year,” Faruk Kaymakci, Turkey’s permanent representative to the EU, told Anadolu Agency.
Mentioning Turkey’s on-going endeavors to have FETO recognized as a terrorist organization, Kaymakci emphasized the improvement with regard to EU institutions toward an accurate understanding of FETO.
“We see that FETO’s influence on the European Parliament (EP) as well as other EU institutions in Brussels is decreasing day by day,” Kaymakci said.
Kaymakci explained that for the EU to define a group as a terrorist organization, it needed to witness a terrorist action in any EU-member state, and for such recognition, a member state had to launch an initiative.
“It took the EU years to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization. And this recognition came only after the PKK started inflicting harm on EU-member states,” he recalled.
“EU countries did not use to share with us enough and real-time intelligence. But after seeing for themselves that a terrorist that carried out an attack in Syria and Iraq could as well do the same in Brussels, Paris, and Barcelona, they began to closely cooperate,” he said.
Stressing that Turkey was one of the very few countries that actually put up an effective fight against Daesh on the ground, Kaymakci noted that the EU had begun to better cooperate also in regard to the Daesh threat.
“We believe that this cooperation should strengthen even more in 2018, and we are now receiving significant signals [from the EU] on that too,” he said.
On 22 March 2016, a suicide attack was carried out at Zaventem Airport and Maelbeek metro station in Brussels, killing 32 people and wounding 270 others.
Daesh claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Separately, at least 130 people were killed and hundreds were injured after a coordinated armed Daesh attack in the French capital on November 13, 2015.
- Customs Union deal
On the Customs Union agreement, Kaymakci said the delay of the update for the agreement was against the interests of Turkey, Europe, and the EU-member states alike, and the update process should start as soon as possible.
Ankara has been pushing the EU to begin the negotiations for Turkey’s inclusion in the updated agreement since Dec. 2016.
“The EU Commission should have been able to obtain from the EU Council the power to initiate the negotiations in mid 2017 at the latest,” he said, adding that Germany hijacked this process from a political standpoint because of tensions with Turkey.
“This is not in the interest of Germany, either. We’re expecting Germany to approach this process with common sense once the new government has been formed there,” he noted.
Despite not being a member of the EU, Turkey has been a party to the Customs Union agreement since 1995.
However, the mutual trade agreement does not cover agriculture (except for processed agricultural products), services, or public procurement.
Kaymakci concluded by saying that the Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Rakhine issues as well as migration and antiterrorism would require an increased dialogue between Turkey and the EU in 2018.
In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aiming to stem the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets all of the 72 requirements set by the EU.
Kaymakci said visa exemption would be “a beneficial cooperation” for and “in the common interest” of the Turkish and European peoples if any real steps could be taken in that direction in early 2018.
While Turkey has fulfilled most of the criteria, differences between Brussels and Ankara on anti-terror legislation have forestalled the visa liberalization deal.
FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.