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Turkey admits it may never join EU 22 septembre 2013

Posted by Acturca in EU / UE, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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The Sunday Telegraph (UK) September 22, 2013, p. 37

By Alex Spillius, Yalta

Turkey will probably never become a member of the European Union because of stiff opposition and « prejudiced » attitudes from current members, a senior Turkish minister admitted yesterday.

In the first such admission, Egemen Bagis, minister for European Union affairs, said his country had to accept that its long-cherished goal of joining the EU was likely to end in disappointment.

Turkey, he said, would probably end up with a similar status in relation to the EU as Norway, which is not a member but has access to the single market through free trade agreements.

« We will be at European standards, very closely aligned, but not as a member, » he said, adding that his prediction would only change unless attitudes changed towards his country, which would be the first Muslim member state.

Mr Bagis, who is also Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU, said that despite modernising and economic growth, his country was the victim of « prejudice » in its treatment by the EU and in its defeated Olympic bid.

Claiming that accession remained Turkey’s target, he urged the EU to « do what it does best, which is to grow ».

« That means putting prejudice away and accepting young dynamic nations like Ukraine and Turkey, » Mr Bagis said at the 10th annual Yalta meeting, which promotes European integration with Ukraine.

His remarks came as efforts to bring Ukraine closer to the EU run into trouble. The signing of a treaty between the eastern European nation of 46 million and the bloc of 28 nations is in doubt over the government’s refusal to release Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, from a seven-year sentence for fraud.

Russia has hinted at reprisals if the former Soviet state forms a stronger partnership with Europe.

With anti-EU sentiment rising among existing members, the UK promising a referendum on membership and Iceland withdrawing its application because of the fragility of the eurozone, the prospects for enlargement are looking bleaker than champions of the European project would want.

Turkey’s accession talks have, essentially, frozen. France has always been strongly opposed while Germany objected strenuously about the degree of force used by Turkish security forces to break up anti-government protests in Istanbul in June.

Turkey sees itself as a bridge between east and west, but its growing confidence means that it has begun to contemplate a future without the EU. « They [the EU] should understand that they are not hurting me by putting me on the back burner, they are hurting themselves, » said Mr Bagis.

Expectations of joining have declined sharply among the Turkish public. In 2004, when a date for accession talks was given – 45 years after Ankara first requested them – support for the EU was at 78 per cent, but in recent polls that was down to 45 per cent.

At the same conference, Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner for enlargement, said that despite the union’s difficulties, it was right to seek to expansion.

« It is not a policy that should just be reserved for good times, » Mr Fule said. « In fact it makes me proud that at this time of difficulty there are still countries knocking on the door. »

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