Turkish President: EU membership bid stronger than ever

Turkish President: EU membership bid stronger than ever

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has said Turkey's bid to become the full member of the European Union is stronger than ever despite its ailing economy and increasingly growing opposition of member states to nod Turkey's accession Todayszaman reported

Gul, in an interview with Britain's Financial Times, said Turkey's membership bid is strong both on economic and political grounds, stressing that Turkey will continue to make required reforms despite reluctance of some member countries to see Turkey a member of the 27-nation bloc.

"Some people may think that Turkey would be a burden to the EU, but I believe it to be just the contrary: Turkey would be the engine for the growth of the EU," he said in the interview.

Gul said Ankara is "in no way" considering anything less than successfully completing the negotiations or becoming an EU member.

Turkey warned that its EU membership bid will be frozen if there is no solution in Cyprus conflict by mid-2012, when Greek Cyprus is scheduled to take the EU's rotating term presidency, representing the entire island.

In one of the latest polls conducted this year, the majority of Turks said they are against the country's accession into the EU. The poll, conducted by the Turkish-German Foundation for Education and Scientific Research (TAVAK), showed that 60 percent of Turks are against EU entry and only 35 percent believe that Turkey will eventually enter the union.

Turkish president said although Turkey was told when it began membership negotiations in 2005 that it was not yet a functioning free market economy, it had long maintained that "we had a better functioning market economy than some of the member states of the EU at the time."

He said in terms of improving the democratic standards Turkey and strengthening its economy, he said he sincerely believes that the EU accession negotiation process and Turkey's relations with the EU and the reform process simultaneously taking place... played a very great role and made a great contribution.

The EU's 2011 progress report on Turkey released last month highlighted Turkish democratic reforms that it said have made it possible for civilian rule to rise above a long but fading tradition of military clout, while at the same time criticizing Turkey over its negative attitude toward EU member Greek Cyprus and referring to a recent gas drilling row in the eastern Mediterranean.

Gul added that "I always say that if, due to various political reasons and...the narrow-minded [approach] of some of the EU member countries, the accession negotiations are taken hostage, then we should...continue as we are, opening and closing [negotiating] chapters" with the EU.

"I always tell our friends in the EU: If a Muslim country that is economically strong and democratically strong [joins], would that be to your advantage or disadvantage?" he said. "First think about it and then decide."

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