SwedenÂ’s Foreign Minister warns Europeans against rejecting Turkey

Posted on 14 February 2011

Date: 30/11/2009
Sweden’s Foreign Minister warns Europeans against rejecting Turkey

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU accession Egemen Bagis, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Spain’s Secretary of State for the EU Diego Lopez Garrido and Ambassador Marc Pierini, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Turkey, pose for a family photo after a meeting on Turkey’s EU membership bid in Istanbul, on Thursday.

In strongly worded remarks, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has rebutted rhetoric used by certain European Union member countries to oppose Turkey’s eventual accession into the now-27 nation bloc, stating that the EU’s future enlargement should be considered a strategic issue, not a matter of public opinion.

The remarks by Bildt, whose country will be at the helm of the EU until January, came on Wednesday during a debate on the EU enlargement strategy at the European Parliament. When some members of the European Parliament suggested that they were speaking on behalf of European public opinion, which is against Turkey’s EU membership, Bildt recalled that the EU did not carry out its earlier enlargements by seeking the approval of public opinion. The EU’s decisions in favor of enlargement, he said, were a result of ambitious political leadership which had a vision for the future. He called the enlargement process one of the EU’s most powerful foreign policy tools.

“We are all aware that there are those in our respective public opinions that would prefer to just shut the door to all of them [candidates seeking EU membership], hoping that the issue would go away, and opt for a far more closed idea of Europe. I belong to those who are convinced that this would be a mistake of historic proportions — the consequences of which would haunt our Europe for a very long time to come,” he said.

A recently announced survey, conducted between June 2008 and November 2009 in five EU countries, revealed that a majority of Europeans — even in countries which officially support Turkish membership such as Britain — would vote “no” if there was a referendum on Turkey’s accession today. A referendum is not a formal condition for accession, but public feelings affect lawmakers to a certain extent when they ratify membership of a new country in the EU.

Additionally, politicians in France vowed to hold a public vote on Turkish accession when the country fulfills the objective criteria for entry.

“Their door to our union might sometimes be a very distant one. Some of them will have to travel a long and difficult road of reforms. But were that door to be shut, the other doors would immediately be opened up to other forces, and we might well see these parts of Europe moving off in directions that over time will have negative consequences for us all,” Bildt warned.

Bildt, meanwhile, praised the Turkish government for its democratization initiative, which includes steps to solve the Kurdish problem, adding that the success of the initiative would bring Turkey much closer to European standards in areas of fundamental importance.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, addressing the same session, also called on the European Parliament to support further expansion of the EU. On Turkey, he said Ankara has a long way to go before it can become a member of the EU. “Despite the reforms that have been carried out, we cannot ignore the Cyprus issue and the Ankara Protocol,” he said, referring to EU calls on Ankara to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU member Greek Cyprus.

27 November 2009, Friday – Quoted from TODAY’S ZAMAN

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