Van Rompuy urges EU for closer partnership with Turkey

December 23, 2010, Thursday/ 17:12:00

Praising Turkey’s active regional role, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, called on the 27-member bloc to develop a closer relationship with the candidate country without waiting to see the eventual outcome of the ongoing membership negotiations.

“In 1999 Turkey became a candidate country. In 2005 the accession negotiations were opened. These are difficult and complex, but there is a chance we can make more progress next year. Turkish reform efforts -- partly achieved to adhere to EU standards -- have delivered impressive results,” Van Rompuy said during a visit to Budapest on Tuesday.

“At the same time, Turkey plays an ever more active role in its neighborhood. In mediating between Syria and Israel, or in its improving contacts with Armenia,” Van Rompuy said in a speech at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

“Turkey is also a full-standing member of the G-20, just like five EU countries and the EU itself. In my view, even before an outcome of the negotiations, the European Union should develop a close partnership with the Turkish Republic,” he said, while emphasizing that the EU’s credibility as a global player depends upon the achievements in its immediate neighborhood.

Hungary will take over the rotating presidency of the EU from Belgium in January 2011. Belgian and Turkish officials have already confirmed that it will not be possible to open a new negotiation chapter during the six-month-long rotating EU presidency of Belgium, with the Turkish side hoping to open the competition chapter during the Hungarian presidency.

Yet, Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere in an interview with Today’s Zaman on Wednesday in Brussels sounded optimistic concerning Turkey’s membership process as he said “the train is on track.”

The EU’s former enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn, now the economic and monetary affairs commissioner, stated in the past that Turkey faced a “train crash” in its relations with Brussels if it failed to fulfill certain conditions.

“I’ve seen that the train remains on route and we will see that efforts exerted will yield fruit during the upcoming presidency,” Vanackere said.

According to Vanackere, the Turkish government was not able to complete its preparations for opening the competition chapter because it had to devote its energy to making significant constitutional amendments.

Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi has meanwhile pledged to do his best to aid progress in Turkey’s membership process in the next six months. The EU will have to make a strategic choice, Martonyi said in remarks delivered to online news portal ABHaber this week. “Either a new Ottoman Empire outside of the EU will be founded and will compete with the EU, or forces will be joined and Turkey will become an EU member. I believe that Turkey’s membership will provide significant advantages to the union,” Martonyi was quoted as saying. Turkey should not be disappointed because of political problems during its membership process, and should instead focus on the negotiations, he added.

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