Kılıçdaroğlu names EU membership as main goal, urges sharing of Turkey’s refugee burden

Leader of the main opposition party and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that if elected, his main goal will be making Turkey a member of the European Union, adding that the union should share Turkey’s refugee burden, Voice of America Turkish edition reported on Wednesday.

Kılıçdaroğlu, chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), spoke on Wednesday during an iftar dinner in Ankara hosted by Future Party (GP) leader Ahmet Davutoğlu and attended by senior opposition figures and ambassadors from European countries, including Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU delegation to Turkey.

The CHP leader is the joint presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, known as the Nation Alliance, for the election slated for May 14. The alliance includes Davutoğlu’s GP.

“Our main goal is membership in the European Union. Of course we want to be part of the civilized world,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that if he is elected, he will do his best to move forward with Turkey’s stalled accession process.

Turkey’s relations with the EU date back to 1963. The country was named a candidate in 1999, and negotiations for full membership started in 2005. The EU has suspended talks with Turkey due to the EU’s unhappiness with what the union has described as a decline of democratic norms in the country.

The CHP leader also expressed hope that Turkey would fulfill the remaining six of the 72 criteria the has EU proposed for visa-free travel during their term in power.

Among the remaining issues are reassessing legislation on terrorism in line with EU standards, complying with the same standards on personal data legislation, ensuring judicial cooperation with EU member states on criminal matters, finalizing an operational agreement with Europol and continuing to fight corruption.

Kılıçdaroğlu further stated that the EU should share the refugee burden of Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population, with close to 4 million refugees and asylum seekers under international protection.

“The suffering in Syria has put our country in a position of … being a haven for millions of refugees. We are carrying a heavy burden. But how long can we continue carrying this burden? We want peace in Syria. We want our Syrian brothers and sisters who took refuge in our country to live in peace in their own country,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

He added that they need to find ways to establish peace in Syria by acting together with international organizations that should make this one of the top issues on their agenda

“Then we will have seen the problem-solving aspect of foreign policy, not just the one that covers them up,” the CHP leader said.

As Turkey readies for the presidential and parliamentary elections in May, the presence of refugees in the country has become a sensitive political issue, especially as it struggles with an economic and currency crisis. Opposition parties regularly call on authorities to send millions of Syrians home, while the government says it is working to create the appropriate circumstances in Syria to enable the Syrians to return voluntarily.

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