Turkey entry must be EU 'clear goal' says UK's Miliband
( AFP ) - The European Union must have a "clear goal" of eventually including Turkey as a full member of the 27-nation bloc, British foreign secretary David Miliband wrote in a comment piece published Wednesday.
Miliband is currently in Turkey to meet with his Turkish counterpart and chief EU negotiator Ali Babacan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President Abdullah Gul, for discussions on bilateral ties and Ankara's bid to join the EU.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said that in "bridging the gap between Europe and Asia, in showing that common humanity overshadows religious differences, there is no more pivotal country than Turkey."
He added that the EU "needs, as a clear goal, the inclusion of Turkey as a full and equal member."
" Turkey and the rest of Europe are bound together by a shared belief in democracy, and by shared interests. Membership of the European Union will help to further those shared interests and values, and reconcile differences."
Miliband also implored Turkey itself to, "by its behavior ... help disarm the skeptics.
"Looking again at the problematic issues surrounding freedom of expression is critical, as is progress on Cyprus."
He continued: "If Turkey can play a role as a member of the European Union, engaged in shared projects, promoting shared values, the prize for Turkey, for Britain, and for Europe as a whole is immense: to witness an age where the world is not only more connected, and more interdependent, but also more at ease with the different identities that Turkey bridges and, as a result, more secure."
Ankara launched accession talks with the 27-member bloc in October 2005, amid strong popular opposition in Europe to the membership of this relatively large and poor Muslim majority country.
But its bid suffered a serious blow last December when the EU froze talks in eight of the 35 policy areas requiring agreement, over Ankara's refusal to fully extend its customs union deal with the bloc to EU-member Cyprus.
Under the freeze, chapters can be opened, but not closed until the problem is resolved.