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Turkey losing patience with EU September 12, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Turkey.
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Exasperated Turkey slammed its fist on the table this weekend saying Europe is dragging its feet on EU entry talks, while the 27-nation bloc sought to boost ties with a nation whose worldwide weight is on the rise.

After sitting down for talks on Saturday with the 27-nation bloc’s foreign affairs chiefs, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said: “I expressed our dissatisfaction with the speed of the negotiations, I expressed it clearly.”

His expression of irritation, moreover, came on the eve of a referendum on highly-divisive constitutional changes that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says will strengthen Turkey’s bid for admission into the EU.

// But instead of jump-starting the sluggish entry talks that kicked off in 2005, his counterparts offered to develop a “strategic dialogue” on key world issues that would be independent of talks on joining the bloc.

“Turkey will never accept any replacement or any alternative to the accession process”, Davutoglu added after meeting his EU counterparts.

The European offer however underlines Ankara’s growing role on the world scene as it helps mediate such thorny issues as the row over Iran’s nuclear program or peace in the Middle East.

“Turkey today has more influence in the world than all the EU member states on an individual basis,” said Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb.

And some fear the serious slowdown in its rapprochement with Europe might cause it to drift east, to the Middle East and Asia.

“It is in the interest of us Europeans that Turkey remain oriented towards the west and that there be no change of course,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

But his Turkish counterpart told journalists that “without a momentum in negotiations it’s difficult to develop such a strategic vision.”

That was why at the meeting “I said this speed is not satisfactory at all.”

“There should be a new approach, meaning to open more chapters, not to have any linkage or political barriers which are not related to the negotiation process, including the Cyprus question or others,” he said.

Since the kickoff of entry talks in 2005, movement has been sluggish, due to the deadlock over Cyprus, the slow pace of reforms in Turkey and, more fundamentally, because France and Germany are wary of seeing the Muslim-majority nation of 75 million join the bloc.

Of the 35 chapters conditioning entry, 18 currently are blocked by the EU, Cyprus and France.

Only three chapters could potentially be opened, failing which the process faces deadlock, a situation which could trigger a real crisis between Turkey and the EU.

Paris and Berlin meanwhile favour a “privileged partnership” with Turkey.

But Ankara can bank on the support of other EU states in its bid to join.

Britain, which in July publicly expressed its opposition to France and Germany on the question, this weekend reiterated its willingness to see progress on the entry talks.

“It would be good to see those talks speed up,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague, as with Turkey inside the EU “there is a very powerful combination to have.”

“It’s very important to show some momentum on this and the UK will be trying to make sure that that happens before the end of the year,” he said.

Sweden’s Carl Bildt took an even stronger tack.

“There are certain countries which have fairly deep reservations, but even those countries I think recognise more than they perhaps did in the past, the strategic importance of Turkey to the EU.”

“We need to look at ways to overcome” the blockage, he added. “It is of course fundamentally unacceptable that countries for their own political reasons block the accession process.”

“It’s certainly an issue that we will return to.”

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