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EU needs Turkey more than Turkey needs it, says Bağış - 10.01.2011
Turkey and the European Union need each other, but Turkey's need for the union continues to decrease while the union's need for Turkey grows bigger with each passing day, according to State Minister Egemen Bağış, who is also Turkey's chief negotiator for EU talks. One day, he said, the European Union will look for ways to do away with obstacles standing in the way of Turkey's membership in the union.

The minister was speaking on a televised program, “Sözün Erdemi” (Virtue of Words), hosted by Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş on private Mehtap television, on Wednesday. He spoke about Turkey's efforts to become a full member of the 27-nation bloc in 2010 and its plans to that end for the new year.

“What is behind Turkey’s trouble with opening new chapters [for negotiation] is the Cyprus issue or things brought before Turkey in connection with the same issue. Today we have political obstacles before the opening of 17 or 18 chapters. These obstacles will be overcome some day because Turkey and the EU need each other. … Today Europe is mired in a serious economic crisis. And before them is an economic power they are watching admiringly: the Republic of Turkey.

Turkey is the sixth biggest economy in Europe and the 15th in the world. While Europe’s most successful country, Germany, witnessed an economic growth of 3 percent in the second half of 2010, the figure was 11 percent in Turkey. The average age in Europe is 45. It is 27 in Turkey. We have a young and dynamic population. In addition, we have a dynamic market. Turkey will host the leaders of 150 countries in the spring for a summit of less developed countries. And it will assume the term presidency for the summit for the next 10 years. On the other hand, Turkey is the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] as well as the co-chairman of the Alliance of Civilizations. Turkey is also one of the reputable countries among the G-20 countries. The EU cannot ignore such an active country,” Bağış stated.

According to Bağış, Turkey’s EU bid is not focused on its aspiration to become a member of the bloc. Rather, it is focused on efforts to raise democratic and economic standards in Turkey. He said Turkey will continue to take steps on reforms included in its national program regardless of the EU’s intentions concerning Turkey’s bid for membership.

“We will change our laws and make our constitution a civilian one that will embrace all citizens of Turkey. And we will take all steps required to adhere to EU standards. It is not important whether the EU opens chapters or not. We will make necessary reforms. What is important to us is the process itself, but not membership in the union. We want to reach the level required to become an EU member. When we reach that level we may not want to become member of the union, who knows? We may head to a referendum and our public may refuse to join the EU. What is important for Turkey is to reach standards in every field and not lag behind European countries,” the minister noted.

Bağış also said Turkey would not make concessions on its Cyprus policy for its EU bid. “We will neither abandon Cyprus for the EU nor the EU for Cyprus. … Our policy is very clear: ports for ports. Let the Greek Cypriots open their ports to us, and we will open our ports to them. The Greek Cypriots should quit acting like spoiled children and launch commercial ties with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [KKTC].”
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