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Erdogan in Brussels in renewed push for EU membership

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-26

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived for two days of talks with European Union officials in Brussels to try to revive his country's stalled EU membership bid in the face of renewed hostility from some member states.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Brussels on Friday to revive stalled European Union membership talks. Turkey has been urging the European Union not to leave its accession bid adrift and has said its membership would help the EU’s relationship with Muslims.


Erdogan deplored the slow pace of movement on accession "No other candidate nation has been submitted to this kind of treatment," said Erdogan, who travelled to Brussels with two senior colleagues for talks with European Union officials.
"Some countries have adopted a political attitude in the negotiation process and their efforts to slow things down upsets us," he told reporters. Erdogan did not specifically mention Cyprus, France or Germany, the three EU nations harbouring the most doubts about Turkish membership.


Paris and Berlin have instead pushed for the EU to have a "privileged partnership" with Ankara that stops short of full accession.


EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said Friday that the bloc would need Turkey as a transit route for energy supplies.


“The EU needs Turkey at least as much as Turkey needs the EU,” he told reporters at the start of two days of talks and public appearances in Brussels.


“It will help the EU outreach to the East,” said Bagis, who is also Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU.


Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu were also due in Brussels for talks with EU officials on Friday.


Speaking in Ankara earlier on Thursday, Erdogan said plans to change Turkey’s constitution—key to his country’s bid for EU membership—were a “waste of time”, the clearest sign so far that his government might be shelving the plan due to opposition from powerful nationalist rivals.


The constitution, drawn up under military rule, imposes curbs on freedom of expression, allows for political parties to be shut down, restricts labour unions and allows the military to wield considerable influence in national politics.


Turkey’s membership talks are almost at a standstill, raising doubts that the relatively poor, predominantly Muslim country of 70 million people will be able to join the EU.


Reforms demanded by the EU have fallen prey to political infighting in Turkey, some member states openly oppose its accession, and Ankara’s progress has been blocked by its refusal to recognise EU member-state Cyprus.


But Bagis said Turkey remained determined to join the EU and would not make do with a “privileged partnership” proposed by leaders in France and Germany to offer Ankara enhanced ties in trade and other areas rather than full membership.


“This concept of privileged partnership will neither bring privilege to Turkey nor partnership. And Turkey, let me be very clear about this, will not take anything less than full membership,” he said.



New chapters



Erdogan was expected to meet Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the EU’s executive European Commission, and Davutoglu was due to meet EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.


The EU accession drive is an anchor for political and financial reform in a country prone to instability, and any further sign that the chances of membership are receding would be likely to unsettle investors and financial markets.


The EU agreed in 2005 to open accession talks with Turkey but has opened discussions in only 10 of the 25 negotiating areas, or chapters, that must be completed before it can join.


Despite the problems, Bagis said Ankara expected to conclude an agreement with the EU on Tuesday to open the tax chapter.


He said Ankara also hoped in the next six months to start negotiations with the European Union on social policy and unemployment, environment, competition, education, and energy.


“It is amazing that, at a time when Europe is facing an energy crisis and Turkey is the natural route between the energy resources and energy demands, we cannot open the energy chapter,” Bagis said.


He remained hopeful of progress towards accession, even though Sweden has said it might not be possible to open any new chapters during its six-month EU presidency starting on July 1.


The European Commission will issue a report on Turkey’s progress in October. In December, it will review a promise by Ankara to open its ports to Cypriot vessels.


Bagis gave no sign that Ankara was about to change its stance on Cyprus, which has been divided into ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities since a Turkish invasion in 1974.

Date created : 2009-06-26