Cameron 'angry' at slow pace of Turkey's EU talks

27th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that he was "angry" over the slow pace of Turkey's negotiations to join the European Union.

"When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing now in Afghanistan alongside European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been," Cameron said in a keynote speech to Turkish businessmen here.

"I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent," added the British leader, on his first visit to Turkey since taking office.

He pledged to remain Turkey's "strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy."

But he also urged Ankara to "push forward aggressively" with reforms to strengthen its hand towards becoming a member of the 27-nation European bloc.

The EU opened accession talks with Turkey in 2005, but the process has moved slowly amid French and German opposition to the mainly Muslim country's membership and the sluggish pace of reform in Ankara.

Last month, talks began on a new policy area, food safety, bringing to 13 the number of chapters Turkey has managed to open out of a total of 35 that it has to successfully negotiate prior to membership.

Eight chapters remain frozen as a sanction for Turkey's refusal to open its sea and air ports to Cyprus, an EU member that Ankara does not recognise owing to the island's 36-year division between its Greek and Turkish communities.

The reform drive of the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara has notably declined in recent years, while France and Germany have added to the gloom, arguing that Turkey does not belong to Europe.

French President Nicola Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that Turkey should be offered a "privileged partnership" rather than full membership, a proposal that Ankara categorically rejects.

The United States and some European officials have charged that the EU's failure to fully embrace Turkey is behind a perceived shift in the country's foreign policy towards the East.

© 2010 AFP

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