Serkan Demirtas – ANKARA
Renewed relationship between Turkey and the EU will be in the mutual interest of both parties in line with the positive agenda adopted recently I Board meeting, ItalyThe ambassador to Ankara said, underlining that the soon-to-be announced reforms in the area of rule of law would be welcomed by the EU.
Massimo Gaiani, Italy’s ambassador to Ankara, has outlined the scope of the Turkish-Italian bilateral relationship, the current state of the game between Turkey and the EU as well as discussions about last year’s tensions in the eastern Mediterranean in an exclusive interview with Hürriyet. Daily News.
Italy has a new government, and it is remarkable to observe that Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi praised relations with Turkey as both a partner in the Mediterranean basin and as a NATO ally. How would you describe the importance of collaboration with Turkey for Italy?
Turkey is certainly a priority for Italy’s foreign policy and has been one of the few countries Prime Minister Draghi named in presenting, a few weeks ago, a government program to the Italian Parliament. The cornerstones of our international projections are the European Union, NATO and the Mediterranean basin, where we will continue to promote renewed dialogue and peaceful dispute resolution.
For Italy, Turkey is a close partner and important actor in the Mediterranean Region, an important ally in NATO and also of great importance to the EU. Rome and Ankara continue to act together to strengthen NATO’s Southern wing. We believe that a renewed relationship between the EU and Turkey is in our best interest, because Ankara is important for our economy, for our security and for regional stability. Therefore, we hope that all parties can work constructively in the coming months to create a new spirit of cooperation.
Italy believes in Turkey. In the past year, our company was the main investor here, and Italy is Turkey’s second trading partner in Europe and permanently among the top five in the world. Our economic and industrial partnership will be essential for both countries to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.
One of the key concepts that PM Draghi mentioned was mutual Mediterranean sensitivity between littoral states. In an effort not to revisit tensions facing the region in the past year, a conference to bring together coastal states with the participation of countries whose energy companies operate is being discussed. Does Italy support this idea? What should be the main goal of such an initiative?
Italy supports the mandate given by the European Union to high representatives to carry out the preparations for this conference, and as a directly involved Mediterranean country, is ready to contribute. It is imperative to carefully agree on the scope and schedule, with particular attention to definitions of all stakeholders to be included. The developing polarization in the area affects the geopolitical balance of the Mediterranean, and I believe that the eastern Mediterranean problem can only be resolved through dialogue and cooperation. Our aim is to ease tensions among coastal countries by promoting an inclusive approach. If this new spirit of cooperation prevails, it will be easier for the parties involved to find pragmatic and realistic solutions.
‘A lose-lose scenario must be avoided in the eastern Mediterranean’
Hydrocarbon activity in the eastern Mediterranean has been in the spotlight for a long time. How well can all the countries concerned work together to turn this wealth into an asset for regional prosperity and peace?
The key words in this case are cooperation and compromise. Recent tensions over hydrocarbon exploration in the eastern Mediterranean are living proof that unilateralism can only lead to loss-making scenarios, where everyone blocks everyone, and economic potential cannot develop. I believe it is possible to define a scheme whereby all parties involved can gain a fair advantage, but, on the other hand, all Governments concerned need to demonstrate a real willingness to compromise on their national position in order to achieve a fair and sustainable international. a framework capable of increasing regional wealth and security.
Turkey and the EU have recently adopted a positive agenda that includes renewing the 2016 migration agreement, increasing customs unions, and liberalizing visas. Can you explain Italy’s position on all aspects of this positive agenda?
Our countries, within the EU, are among those who most strongly support the need to enhance dialogue on a positive agenda with Turkey, and must cover the three areas that you have pointed out. Turkey is the country that hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, around 4 million. Italy, as well as the EU, are aware of the great efforts being made by Turkey, and we really admire what has been done here in terms of assistance and integration of these refugees. Therefore, we believe that Turkey’s efforts must continue to be supported.
We also believe that it will be in the best interests of the EU and Turkey to continue discussions on the modernization of customs unions. In this regard, we also need to concentrate on better implementation of existing agreements.
The liberalization of the visa regime mentioned in the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016 can certainly be fertile ground for increased levels of cooperation, given the fact that concerted efforts must be made to find a synthesis of each other’s positions.
‘EU will welcome Turkey’s judicial reform’
Relations with Turkey will be one of the main items in the upcoming EU Council meeting at the end of March. How do you think Turkey and the EU can properly maintain the momentum for the future?
We have a positive agenda, but above all, we have a common interest in working together; Stronger bonds, more trades and bigger exchanges on all fronts are the only way to restart after the pandemic.
Of course, we must also avoid incidents and reciprocal provocation as soon as the March deadline passes. This does not mean that a person has to give up in order to defend what he considers to be his rights and interests. This means avoiding initiatives that in practice have no positive impact but which could provoke a violent backlash on the other hand.
In more general terms, the best way to maintain momentum is to share value. The EU and its member states are certainly not freed from blame, but we try to uphold a common framework of rules and values that will improve the lives of all our citizens. We don’t want to impose our standards, but our public opinion considers these values very important. We have been encouraged by the announcement by Turkey regarding the rule of law and judicial reform. I think positive steps on this issue will be welcome in Europe, and they are essential for the accession process, in which Italy remains supportive.
Italy continues to play an important global role in 2021 as president of the G20 term and vice president of the United Nations Conference of Parties to Climate Change (COP26). Pushing global efforts to combat climate change appears to be one of the main goals of Italian diplomacy. Turkey is the only member of the G20 that has not ratified the Paris Convention. What actions will Italy take to secure Turkey’s full participation and implementation of the agreement?
The transition to a greener economy is a fundamental step towards ensuring better living conditions for future generations, especially after the pandemic. As you know, no country can act alone on this topic, and each country must do its part within its capacity, in a process that is inherently multilateral in nature. I believe that Turkey can contribute in many ways to fighting climate change and building momentum for the country to restart the ratification process can be very important. Italy – also as part of the EU – will adopt an inclusive stance in any negotiation process ahead of the G20 and COP26 summits, thus enabling a sustainable and productive dialogue on this issue.
The SAMP / T system will provide security to Turkey
Turkey and the Italian / French consortium Eurosam have conducted what they call a definition study of the SAMP / T air defense system. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey was still considering the SAMP / T system as a potential air defense system. Can you update the latest situation?
First of all, let me underline that Italy attaches great importance to Turkish security and has deployed SAMP / T air defense systems and military personnel in Kahramanmaraş for more than three years in response to requests for support by Turkish authorities. We have firmly offered our support as a NATO ally and given Turkey’s strategic importance to the security of the alliance.
In the same spirit, the Eurosam consortium is open to working with Turkey to jointly develop a SAMP / T-based air defense system. The consortium is completing a feasibility study at a technical level, and both the companies involved and the authorities are now considering the next steps. I remain confident that the SAMP / T air defense system will provide a valuable solution to Turkey’s security requirements and will strengthen our alliance as well.