Turkey’s chief negotiator for European Union membership says that the country needs the EU “less and less”. Egeman Bagis, the minister for European Union Affairs, told The Times: “The Turkish public is getting more and more discouraged and frustrated by the attitude of certain EU leaders towards Turkey. We are no longer a docile candidate waiting at the gates of the European Union. Turkey is the rising star of its region, a source of inspiration for the ‘Arab Spring’.”
Turkey asked to join the EU in 1959 and began accession talks in 2005 but the process is now at a standstill.
Of the 35 policy areas that candidate-nations must negotiate, Turkey has opened talks in only 13, with eight chapters frozen over Ankara’s refusal to open Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels and another five blocked by France.
The issue of EU membership has hardly figured in the Turkish election campaign. It appears only on page 151 of the ruling AKP party’s 160-page manifesto.
A recent survey found 69 percent of Turks support their country’s EU bid, but only 36 percent think it will become a member in the next 10 years.
Many in Muslim-majority Turkey complain that the EU wants to remain a “Christian club.” Mr Bagis said the main obstacle to Turkish EU accession was prejudice.
“Unfortunately there are prejudices against Turks and Turkey stemming from a myriad of reasons,” he said.
But he argued that the bloc would benefit from Turkey’s dynamism.
“European Union’s main problem today is economic stagnation. Europeans need economic dynamism. Imagine the power of European Union when the continent’s fastest growing economy and youngest working population joins it,” he said.