Spain should support Turkey's EU membership: Turkish FM

Spain should support Turkey's EU membership:  Turkish FM

Turkey expects Spain to support its EU membership bid, the Turkish foreign minister was quoted as saying by Turkish Weekly.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Spain, which will take over the EU's rotating presidency in early 2010, will launch activities backing Turkey's membership.

"The Spanish presidency of the EU should also work to eliminate technical problems in launching Turkey-EU negotiations on several issues - the opening of new chapters," he told Turkish reporters in the Spanish capital of Madrid.

Davutoglu is paying a formal visit to Spain this week. The FM participated yesterday in a meeting between Turkish and Spanish officials at the Madrid-based think-tank Nueva Economia Forum as part of his visit.

"During its presidency, Spain should also contribute to Turkey's EU membership bid, and work to enable the union to execute its commitments to lift embargoes on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and make the union more unbiased," Davutoglu said.

"Whether you like it or not Turkey is a part of Europe," he added. "European history could not be written properly if Ottoman archives had not been opened."

Davutoglu made the statement in response to remarks by Europeen Parliamentary Speaker Jerzy Buzek who told a Spanish daily that "Turkey's cultural heritage puts the country's EU process in peril."

The EU -Turkey negotiations began in 2005, but have seen little progress since in implementing the reforms necessary in Turkey for EU membership.

"Let's say Turkey withdrew it bid to join the EU. Would the organization's problems just go away? You can deny Turkish culture, but you cannot deny millions of Turks living in Europe," Davutoglu said.

The Turkish FM expressed optimism over Spain's upcoming takeover in January of the EU presidency, saying Turkey had great expectations from the Spanish presidency.

"Spain truly understands that Turkey is active and strategic and is aware of Turkey's economic potential. The Spanish presidency will have a positive effect not only on the opening of new chapters in policy, but also in getting closer politically," he added.

The entire negotiating process on Turkey's membership includes 35 "chapters," on which Ankara must ensure compliance with EU requirements.

Also participating in the meeting, Spain's EU State Secretary Diego Lopez Garrido reiterated his country's support for Turkey's bid to join the organization.

The secretary said Turkey's strategic importance will be appreciated more when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force.

Some permanent member states, such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, have repeatedly opposed Turkey's admission, offering the country the status of a preferred partner. Ankara, in response, said it will not accept privileged partnership as an alternative to EU integration.

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