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‘Turkey has team-player spirit for joining EU league’ Sauli Niinistö January 5, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Sauli Niinistö, the Finnish parliament speaker since April 2007, was the deputy prime minister of his country when Turkey was given European Union candidate country status at the Helsinki summit in December 1999, when it was also noted that it would be required to meet the same conditions for accession as other countries. Share Niinistö, accompanied by a parliamentary delegation, was in Turkey last week for talks with Turkish officials only days before a key summit during which EU leaders will discuss Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Greek Cyprus. Noting that Turkey’s EU bid was at the core of their talks with Turkish officials, Niinistö expressed his confidence that the people of Turkey must be aware of his country’s firm support for Turkey’s accession into the now 27-nation bloc.

“We would like to see negotiations going forward; it is very important that the question on Cyprus is solved in a way that we can concentrate on the main issue which is EU membership,” Niinistö said in an interview with Today’s Zaman. In 2006, Finland tried to broker a deal between the EU and Turkey to resolve the Cyprus impasse. In late November 2006, however, the talks broke down without an agreement with the Finnish EU presidency saying it didn’t believe it could broker a solution on the issue during its term. Shortly after the collapse of talks, at a summit in December, the EU Council froze the opening of eight negotiation chapters with Turkey due to its refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic. The EU, meanwhile, is expected to review the situation by the end of 2009.

“After discussing it with the Turkish authorities, I understand that they are trying to find a decent way of solving this problem. And I hope that that will be the reality as soon as possible,” Niinistö said. He declined to comment on the possible outcomes of the upcoming summit, but highlighted that a solution which would be satisfactory for all parties should be found. According to recent surveys held in Finland, Niinistö remains the early favorite for president in 2012. According to a survey published by the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat in late November half of all Finns would like to see the former finance minister and National Coalition Party chair fill the post. Football and unity Speaking with Today’s Zaman, Niinistö, 61, refused to disclose his eventual decision on whether or not to run for the presidency. He had lost a presidential bid with current President Tarja Halonen in 2006. Halonen, who is mid-way through her second six-year term, is not eligible for re-election in 2012, since there is a two-term cap on those holding the post. Niinistö told Today’s Zaman what kind of a Europe he would like to see as a Finnish citizen.

“We should build up a Europe where nations understand each other, where we benefit from each other and are also capable of constructing bridges to other parts of the world. This is what I would like my children and my grandchildren to see,” he said. The picture Niinistö portrayed is a difficult one to draw since it necessitates good team-players. Niinistö, who has been elected as the new president of the Football Association of Finland in early November, was asked by Today’s Zaman whether he believed that current EU-member countries are good team-players and whether he saw Turkey as a potentially good team-player for the EU. “Yes, I believe that Turkey would be a good player,” Niinistö said. “In a big team, something always happens in the field, somebody fails but at the end, the team is very united. Now I’m talking about football. In football every now and then somebody fails and we have to understand that, forgive it,” Niinistö said, highlighting that he was just talking about football. Unlike the tight-lipped attitude of the parliament speaker, who’s position usually requires acting as a politically neutral referee, Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb has been quite straight-forward about those members who have appeared to spoil the harmony within the bloc.

During an official visit to Ankara in May, Stubb lambasted French President Nicolas Sarkozy who believes that Turkey does not belong in Europe and proposes instead a privileged partnership that falls short of EU membership. Ankara categorically rejects any formula that does not include full membership in the European bloc. “The EU must always stand behind its own words and promises announced at the 1999 Helsinki summit,” Stubb said at the time in an interview with Today’s Zaman, adding, “Turkey should be a full member of the EU.”

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