Correspondent's Choice

This story about the status of Turkey and the EU was published by EurActiv on 30th September 2010.

Egemen Ba???, Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, sought yesterday (29 September) to unblock Ankara’s accession bid by calling on European Union countries to call referenda on the country’s EU membership. Turkey may also chose to consult its citizens too, he said.

So-called ‘Norway status’ (see ‘Background’) appears to be a formula which Turkey is officially putting on the table, it emerged after a two-hour Q&A session between Ba??? and the Brussels press.

Ba???, who is a leading politician from Turkey’s AKP party, repeatedly referred to Norway, which had completed accession negotiations but twice decided not to join the Union following referenda lost by narrow margins in 1972 and 1994.

Turkey an asset, not a burden

Ba??? gave assurances that Turkey was such a strong asset to the EU that he was more doubtful of the result of the Turkish referendum than he was about those in EU countries seen today as Turkey-sceptic.

“We have a very solid example in front of us. A country that I follow very closely – Norway. They conducted their negotiations, they completed their reforms, and they chose not to become a member.”

“The day we complete our negotiations, we will not be today’s Turkey, just as today’s Turkey is not the country from 51 years ago when we first applied. And I don’t know what the Turkish nation will decide. And I don’t know what the populations of some of the member states will decide.”

“Maybe like in the case of the UK we will be vetoed, but again like the UK we will go through with determination and become a member […] Or like Norway, we will not become a member, but we will be closely linked to the EU,” the Turkish negotiator said.

Asked by EurActiv if Turkey would accept a situation in which, for example, the French were to say ‘no’ to Turkey’s accession in a referendum, Ba??? replied: “Of course, why not? Because we make decisions based on the consequences. French people would calculate France’s interest, when they go to the ballot box, and our people would calculate our interest, or self-interest.”

“But I believe that by the time we have completed the negotiations, the approach of French people will not be similar to the approach of French people today. I strongly believe that by the time we complete the negotiations, the European Union member states would try to lobby to make sure that Turks vote to become members of the EU,” he added.

The Turkish official strongly argued that Turkey had a lot to offer to the EU and would in fact relieve the Union of some of its burdens, instead of bringing additional ones. In particular, he mentioned the demographic factor, but also the economy.

“In the first quarter of 2010 the Turkish economy grew by 11.8%. In the second quarter we grew by 10.8%. According to OECD calculations, we will continue to be one of the three fastest-growing economies of the world until 2017. Per capita income in Turkey has tripled for the last eight years. There is no other success story on the continent like it,” Ba??? said.

“I’m confident in the growth of my country, I’m confident in the democratisation and economic prosperity of my country. To be honest, I don’t have so much confidence in your economic prospects,” he added wittily.

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  1. He must know that’s never going to happen. The UK government can’t give its citizens a vote on Turkish membership of the EU without giving them a vote on their own membership, and they would never dare do that.

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