Erdogan: No to conditional approval at December summit

Turkish Daily News
22 July 2004

Erdogan: No to conditional approval at December summit

The prime minister says the December summit will be the time for decision on
accession talks, not for membership of Turkey and he is confident that a
reversal at the summit would not be a fatal blow

ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
Turkey is not over-ambitious to get membership in the European Union and it
would stick to its reform process even after a failure in its drive for
accession, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

He was speaking in France, where public skepticism over Turkey’s membership
runs high, after talks with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister
Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The prime minister moved to address French concerns, saying Turkey’s
membership would be a blow to the thesis of a clash of civilizations and
bring economic benefits to both France and the EU and conveying the message
to the French leaders that Turkey is making the changes required to meet the
so-called Copenhagen criteria for membership and is counting on France not
to withdraw its support.

But he said a failure to get into the union would not be the end of the
world. “Turkey doesn’t ask to join at any price. Joining the EU is not a
must for Turkey,” Erdogan said at a press conference. “We have embraced the
Copenhagen criteria in order to raise the living standards of our people. If
this (the membership bid) fails, we would rename the Copenhagen criteria to
Ankara criteria and carry on with our path.”

EU leaders will decide in their mid-December summit whether Turkey is fit to
start the long-delayed accession talks. An EU Commission report which will
be released in autumn will largely shape the December decision. In meeting
with Erdogan, Chirac reiterated French position that Paris would await the
Commission’s assessment.

A spokeswoman for Chirac told reporters after the meeting that Turkey’s
entry into the 25-nation bloc was “desirable as soon as it actually becomes
possible. “Turkey has made considerable progress. It should continue and
intensify the implementation of democratic and economic reforms,” Chirac’s
spokeswoman quoted him as telling Erdogan.

Erdogan suggested that there was no reason for the EU leaders to be
hesitant, saying the December summit would make the decision on talks with
Turkey, not on the membership. “We don’t know if the accession process will
take five years or ten years. This is something that depends on our
performance throughout the talks process,” he said at the press conference.

Conditional approval not acceptable
The prime minister also said that Turkey cannot be held to a higher standard
than the other EU members or the two nations hoping to join in 2007, Romania
and Bulgaria.

“The EU regulations do not allow a conditional date for talks or conditional
approval of membership. Conditions are clear and we have so far worked
towards meeting them,” Erdogan said. He warned a conditional go-ahead for
talks at the December summit would undermine the EU’s credibility.

Employment concerns
The prime minister also moved to address European worries that entry of
Turkey, a country with a population of 70 million, saying Turkish membership
would not lead to difficulties in employment in Europe.

“We acquired the right for the free circulation of labor in 1985. Turkish
labor should have been roaming across Europe since then. We have never tried
to impose things on Europe since then and we are ready now to make the
necessary pledges,” said the prime minister.

He argued instead that Turkish accession would help the EU reach out to the
Islamic world.

Economic relations
While in France, the prime minister also highlighted the bilateral economic
relations between Turkey and France and prospects of further cooperation in
an attempt to woo both the politicians and business leaders.

“France is ranked first among countries investing most in Turkey. Our trade
volume stands around $7 billion,” Erdogan said, adding that French companies
were also bidding in serious privatization tenders in Turkey.

Turkish and French authorities agreed on purchase of some 36 planes by the
Turkish Airlines (THY) from the French-German maker Airbus and discussed
French participation in Turkey’s plans to build nuclear energy plants.

No crisis with Israel
Responding to questions on Turkey’s relations with Israel, Erdogan
underlined that there was no crisis between Ankara and Tel Aviv and
explained his recent criticisms of Israeli actions against Palestinians were
simply a “warning from a friend.”

“There is no crisis between Turkey and Israel,” Erdogan said. “I have told a
fact and I have to tell this. These are not things that would overshadow our
economic, trade and military ties,” he said.

‘Armenian genocide’ no condition for EU
Erdogan also touched on the issue of an alleged genocide at the hands of the
late Ottoman Empire against Armenians, saying the Armenian allegations did
not constitute a membership criterion.

He reportedly told a meeting with members of the French Parliament’s Foreign
Relations Committee that Armenia was making a mistake by trying to keep the
genocide allegations alive all the time.

“People do not want a world driven by hatred and enmity. They want to see
leaders who can remove them. Hand in hand, we’ll resolve them,” Erdogan said
at his press conference.