British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will promise on Tuesday to fight for Turkey to be part of the EU and will dismiss opponents of Turkish membership as protectionist or prejudiced.
Turkey has begun the slow process of accession talks with the 27-member EU, but the bloc is deeply divided over whether it should be given full membership. France has taken the strongest stand against Turkish entry.
On his first visit to the country since becoming prime minister in May, Cameron will say Turkey would bring greater prosperity and political stability to the bloc thanks to its vast economic potential and growing influence in the volatile Middle East and central Asia.
“So I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. This is something I feel very passionately about,” Cameron will say, according to excerpts from a speech provided in advance by British officials.
“Together, I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels,” he will say in the speech, to be delivered at the Organization of Chambers of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, an influential business organization.
The speech draws a parallel between Turkey and Britain, which was initially prevented from being part of the EU by France’s veto before finally entering the club in 1973.
“We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change,” he will say.
The remarks will set Cameron on a collision course with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who promised in his election campaign in 2007 to stand firm against Turkish accession, citing cultural differences and concern over the bloc’s political cohesion.
“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally, and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been,” Cameron will say.
“My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while less outspoken on the issue than Sarkozy, has appeared reluctant to embrace Turkish accession. Herman Van Rompuy spoke out against Turkey’s bid to be part of EU before he became EU president.
Cameron’s Conservative Party is staunchly opposed to closer political integration within the EU and sees the body primarily as a common market that should be dedicated to free trade.
Cameron will say in his speech that those who oppose Turkish accession fall into three categories: protectionists who see Turkey’s growing economic power as a threat, “the polarised” who think the country should choose between East and West, and the prejudiced who misunderstand Islam.
He will argue that it is precisely because it is a secular state with a Muslim majority that Turkey should be welcome in the EU, which he will say is defined by values, not religion.
Financial Mirror, July 27, 2010 – By Estelle Shirbon, Reuters|