ANKARA: Turkey’s E.U. Membership Discussed In New York


Turkish Press
April 6 2007


NEW YORK – "Turkey must be made an EU member when it completes its
homework. Yet if it does not enter the EU, Turkey will remain as a
democratic and secular country," said Baki Ilkin, Turkish Permanent
Representative to the United Nations, on Wednesday.

A panel discussion titled "Is Turkey or the EU at a turning point?"

and co-sponsored by the New York University, Turkey`s Permanent
Representation in the UN and Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen
Association (TUSIAD) took place in New York yesterday.

Among the topics discussed at the panel discussion were Turkey`s EU
membership and its consequences, Europe`s and the EU`s "Christian
identity" and whether or not the EU is ready for Turkish membership.

"Turkey has always looked at the West since the Ottoman Empire era.

The Turkish Republic, founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, gave high
attention to westernization, modernization and secularism," told
Baki Ilkin.

"Turkey has always been a part of Europe. It would be impossible to
talk about European history without including the Ottoman Empire. The
concept of secularism has been dominant in Turkey for the past 85
years. Regardless of whether Turkey becomes an EU member or not,
secularism will continue to lead Turkey as an important principle,"
remarked Ilkin.

"It is natural to expect EU to accept Turkey, a secular nation,
to membership. Turkey is a role model as a democracy in which Islam
and secularism live side by side," indicated Ilkin. "Nevertheless,
Turkey has never attempted to impose a similar system in any country."

"In the event that Turkey does not become an EU member, it will
continue its progress, stability and secular democracy," reiterated

Baki Ilkin noted that "the EU must accept Turkey once Turkey completes
its homework. If Turkey is left out, this would be sad for the EU. The
EU will be left in a position as an entity that rejected a Muslim but
secular nation, Turkey. Rejection of Turkey`s bid to join the EU will
cause disappointment in the minds of millions of Turks."

In reference to a question on Turkish workers who may flood into
EU countries, Ilkin responded that similar concerns were brought up
before Portugal, Spain and Poland became EU members. "Workers from
these three countries later returned back to their homelands. Even
if Turkey becomes an EU member, there will be temporary restrictions
on the free movement of labor," underlined Ilkin.

In regard to a question on Cyprus, Ilkin mentioned that this issue
is not a matter between Turkey and Greek Cypriots. "This is an issue
that must be resolved between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots
by a compromise. The Greek Cypriots for many years tried to portray
the Turkish Cypriots as an obstacle in finding a solution. However,
the referendum in 2004 and its results showed that the Greek Cypriots
are the party that refused a solution in Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots,
nonetheless, were made a member of the EU," said Ilkin.

"EU countries must convince the Greek Cypriots to establish an
agreement with the Turkish side in Cyprus," underscored Ilkin.

Asked about Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, Ilkin commented
that "in the recent past, Turkey went through some important
legal reforms. No one has been punished in cases where prosecutors
based their arguments on Article 301. We are in favor of freedom of
expression. However, this principle must apply in all countries. If
the Turks can not freely express their ideas, as in the case of
the so-called Armenian genocide, can we talk about a freedom of

Reminded about certain comments that Turkish support to the EU dropped,
Ilkin stated that "it is not merely Turkey`s responsibility to awaken
support for the EU. It is the duty of both Turkey and EU to help
maintain public support for the EU in Turkey."

In regard to a question on "privileged partnership", Ilkin said that
"no Turkish government will accept 2nd class treatment in the EU."


Meanwhile, TUSIAD`s Brussels Representative Bahadir Kaleagasi indicated
that "Turkey`s membership in the EU will bring many political and
economic advantages to the union. Many EU leaders support Turkey`s
bid to join the union."

According to Kaleagasi, the customs union between Turkey and the
EU functions very well. "Turkish companies successfully compete in
Europe. Conditions in Turkey will be much better when it actually
becomes an EU member," noted Kaleagasi.

Kaleagasi stressed that "French President Jacques Chirac`s recent
comments that the EU needs Turkey in order to be a global player
are correct".


On the other hand, Fernando M. Valenzuela, Head of EU Commission
Delegation to UN, remarked that "Turkey`s membership process will
be difficult and long. The EU is at a turning point on Turkey`s
application to EU."

"Certain circles in Europe express concern on Turkey`s membership
due to its huge size, economic status, and cultural and religious
differences. Yet these characteristics may be used to EU`s advantage,"
told Valenzuela.

"Turkey`s Muslim population should not constitute a problem in EU.

Some said that Spain`s culture is also different. Yet Spain has been
an EU member since 1986," indicated Valenzuela.

Valenzuela added that "Turkey`s different religion should not be used
against its membership."


Taking the floor at the panel discussion, historian Tony Judt remarked
that "it would be a great mistake if the EU does not let Turkey in
as a full member. Not letting in Turkey would make the EU a loser in
the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia."

Steven Cook of the Foreign Relations Council underlined that "Turkey`s
membership in the EU will have an impact on the Muslim world. Turkey`s
membership in the EU will play a vital role in relations between the
West and the Muslim worlds. Any rejection of Turkey`s application will
cause problems in relations between the West and Islamic worlds. If
Turkey is not made a member of the EU, this would only fuel claims of
a clash of civilizations. The EU leaders must make the right decisions
(in favor of Turkey`s EU memebership)".

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