Wednesday

27th Jan 2021

EU 'lacks vision' on Turkish accession, president says

  • Turkish President Abdullah Gul with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels last year (Photo: European Commission)

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has hit out at European politicians, saying they lack a strategic vision for Turkey's membership of the European Union.

Rather than fixating on the present, the EU should assess the future economic, security and energy benefits of the country joining the 27-member bloc, Mr Gul told German newspaper Suedeutsche Zeitung on Saturday (16 October).

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Turkey has become increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of its EU accession talks that started in 2005, with French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner last week blaming Ankara's failure to undertake the necessary reforms.

"The main reason behind the slowing of the talks is a lack of vision and strategic thinking by European politicians and intellectuals," said Mr Gul, conceding that internal changes in Turkey must also be carried out.

"They should think in the perspective of 25, 50 or 100 years ... if one only thinks about today, the process is blocked."

Negotiators from the two sides have opened 13 of the total 35 EU accession chapters, with eight chapters completely frozen due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Cyprus, an EU member which Ankara does not recognise.

Doubts over Turkish membership have led two of Europe's most powerful states - France and Germany - to push instead for a 'privileged relationship," a concept Ankara strongly rejects.

While supporters of Turkish membership tout the country's young population of roughly 70 million as crucial to tackling Europe's ageing workforce, opponents are cautious about the power such a populous state would wield inside the union, with Turkey soon to overtake Germany as the continent's most populous nation.

These fears are unfounded for a bloc of already 500 million people, insisted Mr Gul. "If we have common democratic values, the rest should be accepted as a diversity," he said.

The Turkish president also noted the importance of Turkey's geostrategic location in the world at a time when the West is growing increasingly concerned by Iran's nuclear ambitions. Ankara recently teamed up with Brazil in search of a tripartite solution with Tehran. "Turkey's initiatives about peace and diplomacy should be assessed well," he said.

The comments come ahead of a visit by German President Christian Wulff to Turkey on Monday, the first German head of state to officially travel to the country in over 10 years.

Mr Wulff is set to give a speech before the Turkish parliament that will likely touch upon the subject of integration, a topic that has sparked ferocious debate back home in Germany. Over the weekend Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country's project in multiculturalism had "failed utterly."

Mr Gul urged the 3.5-million-strong Turkish community living in Germany to better integrate into German society.

"When one doesn't speak the language of the country in which one lives that doesn't serve anyone, neither the person concerned, the country, nor the society," he said.

"That is why I tell them at every opportunity that they should learn German, and speak it fluently and without an accent. That should start at nurseries."

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