Turkey in the EU Oct99

In an historical context, the European Union is a baby. In its infancy, it questioned the eligibility of British membership and rejected its application to join. At that time, many thought Greece or Spain- I suppose these days all that is forgotten -would never qualify for membership.

Over the last 10 years we have witnessed huge changes: membership has expanded to 15 Member States, the Parliament is  beginning to acquire political power and will, I hope, cease to be a mere talking shop.

Turkey’s application has to be judged on the basis of the following criteria:-

1.     Turkey’s strategic geographic and economic position and how this impacts on Europe.

2.     Turkey’s crucial role as a member of NATO and how this membership could be sustained if the door is permanently shut in its face.

3.     Turkey, as a future responsible Member of the EU, could be the fire extinguisher for the fires of discontent that burn in the Middle East and beyond.

I appreciate the fears of those who worry about Turkey’s Islamic population. The realityis that there are large numbers of Turks living in Germany & France; large numbers of Muslims including Turkish Cypriots live in Britain. The populations of Kosovo and Albania are predominantly Muslim.

The religious complexion of Turkey is a matter of historic accident as Spain under the Moors for a few hundred years. Turkey’s culture is distinctly European and its religious complexion should not devalue its European identity.

Let us look ahead over the next 10,15 or 25 years and examine what is in Europe’s best interest. What will contribute to the prosperity and peace of this family of nations that is today’s Europe? Let us not be hypocritical. Leyt us ask ourselves what is the intellectual basis of excluding Turkey?

Young Europeans,socially mobile and far less religious than us, expect us to develop a Europe of opportunities for work and prosperity that we can all enjoy.  

Turkey cannot join the EU today but geography, culture, history, security & common sense require us to prepare & support Turkey for eventual membership of the EU.