Monday

23rd Apr 2018

British queen praises Turkey's EU credentials

The British queen has praised Turkey's EU membership credentials on a rare state visit, amid pageantry reflecting the country's mixture of Islamic and western traditions.

"Turkey is uniquely positioned as a bridge between east and west at a crucial time for the European Union and the world in general," the monarch said at a banquet in Ankara on Tuesday (13 May).

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  • The queen had not been to Turkey since 1971 (Photo: wikipedia)

"The prospect of accession to the European Union has already helped to inspire changes that are improving the lives of its citizens," she added, calling Turkey a "confident and dynamic democracy."

Her unusually political speech - delivered alongside British foreign minister David Milliband - stressed that "Turkey is as important now as it has ever been" to the UK, mentioning the country's "strategic location" and its role "in promoting secure supplies of energy."

"The United Kingdom has become one of our most loyal supporters in Turkey's march toward membership of the European Union," Turkish president Abdullah Gul said at the dinner, AP reports.

The carefully orchestrated event saw Mr Gul wearing a western-style tuxedo as the queen made him an honorary knight grand cross of the civil division of the most honourable order of the bath - a British gesture of respect.

But the president's wife wore an Islamic headscarf, highlighting the current Turkish government's religious beliefs despite official restrictions against religious symbols at state events.

Queen Elizabeth II's four day-trip will see her visit the Green Mosque complex in Bursa on Wednesday and host a cocktail party on board a British warship stationed near Istanbul on Thursday.

It is her first visit to Turkey since 1971, eight years after the country first became an "associate member" of the EU in 1963.

The country opened formal EU accession talks in 2005, but progress stalled in 2006 due to a political dispute with EU member Cyprus, with eight of the 35 accession treaty "chapters" still frozen.

EU giants France and Germany openly oppose Turkish membership, calling for a "privileged partnership" with Ankara instead.

Analysis

Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties

Turkey has belittled the EU in a week of macho posturing, but strategic relations go deeper than the rhetoric.

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In an annual progress report, European Commission says "independence of justice, law enforcement as well as national anti-corruption authorities need substantial improvement".

EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement

After the European Commission presented its Western Balkans strategy last week, with a view of possibly integrating the region by 2025, some EU ministers were less enthusiastic after their first discussion of the new policy.

Opinion

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

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