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EU Official from Brussels Meets with MIAPP EU Diplomacy Students

Heike Gerstbrein, an EU official from the EU Commission-Turkey Team/Political Desk in Brussels, visited Bilkent University and had a meeting with IR-MIAPP (Master of International Affairs and Public Policy) students on Friday, April 20. Ms. Gerstbrein was invited by instructor Yeter Yaman as part of the MIAPP program on EU Diplomacy.
Introducing the speaker, Ms. Yaman made reference to the most recent Transatlantic Trends survey published by the German Marshall Fund, in which only 48 percent of Turkish respondents said that they thought that EU membership would be a good thing, compared to 73 percent in 2004. In view of the declining public support in Turkey for the EU process, she expressed the hope that this kind of public diplomacy event and direct contact with EU officials would help promote a better understanding of EU issues in Turkey and also correct some misperceptions.
In her presentation, Ms. Gerstbrein gave an overview of Turkey’s EU accession process and then answered students’ questions, highlighting the benefits of EU integration for both sides, and also the challenges ahead. Ms. Gerstbrein acknowledged there were frustrations on both sides but stressed that the EU accession process is a project worth pursuing to obtain results in the interests of both sides. In this context, she presented facts and figures showing the importance of the interlinkage between the EU and Turkey.
The meeting provided a good opportunity for students to obtain firsthand information from an EU official and engage with her in an open dialogue on EU matters. Many questions concerned the Cyprus issue, with students wondering if this was the main reason for the process being blocked. They also raised concerns over the EU visa policy vis-Ă -vis Turkey, the EU accession criteria and political reforms
In addition to Ms. Gerstbrein, other external speakers have also contributed to the MIAPP program: Gülnur Aybet from Kent University in the UK, Aydan Karamanoğlu from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and François Naucodie from the EU delegation in Ankara.