Turkey sets deadline of a decade for EU accession

Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 00:00

TURKISH PRIME minister Tayyip Erdogan has given the European Union a decade to conclude accession talks with Ankara.

During a visit to Berlin, Mr Erdogan said he hoped deadlocked talks would be concluded in time for 2023, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

“If you try to keep us dangling ’til then, the EU will lose, at least you will lose Turkey,” said Mr Erdogan, who was in the German capital to open the new Turkish embassy.

Turkey’s EU ambitions date to 1959 and official accession talks commenced in 2005 but negotiations have virtually ground to a halt. Of continued concern is the dispute over the divided island of Cyprus as well as the view in many EU states, including Germany, that Turkey does not belongs inside the bloc.

After talks with Mr Erdogan, chancellor Angela Merkel promised that the EU would be an “honest negotiator” in accession talks.

“These negotiations will continue irrespective of the questions that we have to clarify,” she said. “The question of full membership for Turkey is seen within my party in a certain way . . . We have learned to live with this difference and still have good relations.”

Dr Merkel has vowed to support Turkey’s EU ambitions as chancellor but she opposes the move as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union. She has proposed offering a “privileged partnership” allowing closer trade ties, a proposal rejected by Ankara.

“Either you are in or you are out, there can be no (EU) half-way house,” said Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s EU affairs minister in Berlin.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle conceded the harmful nature of the ongoing deadlock that has seen Turkey complete just one of 35 policy “chapters” to allow accession.

“It is bad for both sides and next year we want to make a new beginning to overcome this standstill,” said Mr Westerwelle.

It remains to be seen where progress will come. Mr Erdogan was outspoken as ever yesterday about the disputed issue of Cyprus, split between the Greek Cypriot south, recognised internationally, and the northern Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.

Mr Erdogan said the accession of Cyprus to the EU “was a serious mistake and the mistake continues with increasing effects”.

He was milder on the often fraught issue of Germany’s Turkish community of three million people. After previously describing integration and assimilation as a crime against humanity, Mr Erdogan used this visit to encourage Turkish citizens living in Germany to read Goethe and Kant.