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22nd Feb 2020

Spain champions Turkish membership in EU 'family'

  • Mr Moratinos is sharing the spotlight with EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The Spanish EU presidency has strongly advocated Turkey's entry into the union, but most Europeans would say No if asked in a referendum.

"Turkey is part of the European family of nations. It's better to have it inside the EU than to leave it standing before the door," Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said in an interview with German paper Die Welt on Sunday (23 January).

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The minister, a former EU special envoy to the Middle East, endorsed Turkish accession on strategic grounds.

"Turkish diplomacy is very well connected in the Middle East and Central Asia where it is taking on an important mediating role. Turkey is also an important partner in the dialogue of civilisations between East and West," he said.

"This is our challenge in dealing with the Islamic world: We must show that interfaces exist between Muslim societies and between universal values, which are represented by the EU, that co-existence and consensus are possible."

Spain has promised to try and open four more negotiating chapters in Turkish-EU accession talks during its six-month EU chairmanship.

The talks began in 2005 but just 12 out of 35 chapters have been opened so far due, in part, to opposition by EU member Cyprus, which is locked in conflict with Turkey over the northern part of the island.

Speaking in a separate interview in Austria's Die Presse newspaper, also on Sunday, Turkey's chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bagis, sprinkled sarcasm on the Cyprus problem.

Turkey is keen to help the union access Caspian Sea gas supplies but "Unfortunately [it] cannot open the energy chapter with the EU because of a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea," he said.

Mr Bagis said that Turkey aims to put in place the full gamut of EU legislation - the acquis communautaire - by 2013, and gave short shrift to Turkey-scepticism within the union.

"The days of 1683 lie far behind us. We haven't had any kind of diplomatic difficulties in the past 300 years," he said in reference to the Battle of Vienna in 1683, when a coalition of European countries defeated the army of the Ottoman Empire.

Germany and Austria are among the two most staunchly anti-Turkish accession countries in the EU.

Germany's new centre-right and liberal government has said that it stands by its EU-level agreement to hold open-ended talks with Turkey. But the CSU party, a member of the governing coalition, wants a "privileged partnership" instead of full accession.

The Austrian government has said that it would call a national referendum before letting Turkey in.

A new survey of opinion in five EU countries by the Bogazici University in Istanbul and the Granada University and Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, cited by AFP, shows that 64 percent of people in France and 62 percent of Germans would say No to Turkey if a referendum was held.

The No vote was weaker in the UK, on 46 percent. Poland and Spain would vote Yes by 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

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