EU lacks vision on Turkey membership: Gul

16th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Turkish President Abdullah Gul accused European politicians and intellectuals of lacking vision about Turkey joining the European Union, in an interview published Saturday in the Suedeutsche Zeitung.

Gul's comments followed those on Tuesday by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who blamed Turkey's lagging accession negotiations with the European Union on its failure to undertake needed reforms, saying: "...the ball is in your court".

Gul acknowledged in the interview with the German newspaper that Turkey had its work to do, but said Europe was at fault for the slow speed of the talks.

"But the main reason behind the slowing of the talks is a lack of vision and strategic thinking by European politicians and intellectuals," said the Turkish president.

Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, but the process has stalled amid opposition from some member states -- France and Germany in particular -- lack of reform in Turkey and a trade row over the divided island of Cyprus.

Gul said Turkey's membership would reinforce the EU's security, including in the energy sector, as well as many other areas.

"They should think in the perspective of 25, 50 or 100 years," said Gul. "But if one only thinks about today, the process is blocked."

France and Germany have been vocal opponents of Turkey's ambition to join the 27-nation bloc and argue that the mainly Muslim country of about 73 million people should settle for a "privileged partnership" rather than full membership.

Eight of 35 negotiation chapters remain completely frozen due to Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Cyprus, an EU member which Ankara does not recognise owing to the island's 36-year division between its Greek and Turkish communities.

Gul also encouraged the 2.5-million-strong Turkish community living in Germany to better integrate into German society.

"When one doesn't speak the language of the country in which one lives that doesn't serve anyone, neither the person concerned, the country, nor the society," said the Turkish president.

"That is why I tell them at every opportunity that they should learn German, and speak it fluently and without an accent. That should start at nurseries."

Gul said that if German footballer of Turkish descent Mesut Ozil "had asked me which side to play for, I would have encouraged him to play for Germany."

The Turkish president said Ozul, who scored one of the German goals in their October 8 defeat of Turkey 3-0 in a Euro-2012 group A qualifying match in Berlin, is "an example of very successful integration".

© 2010 AFP

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