Current Affairs Prague endorses Turkey’s EU candidacy
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a one-day working visit to Prague on Monday for talks dominated by business and his country’s drive to revitalize accession talks with the EU. The Czech Republic, which has nurtured ties with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, fully endorsed Ankara’s ambition.
The Turkish head of government could not have picked a more auspicious start to his EU–dominated central-European tour. The Czech Republic is one of the few EU members ready to openly endorse Turkey’s EU candidacy. A press conference at which the Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, sent out this message was broadcast live by Turkish national television:
“Not only are our two countries close allies in NATO, Turkey is a key partner not just for the Czech Republic but for other EU member states in the region. We believe that if Turkey can fulfill the respective accession criteria it deserves the chance to become a fully-fledged member of the alliance.”
Addressing a European audience, Prime Minister Erdogan voiced Turkey’s grievances over the stalled endorsement process saying his country had waited for over half a century outside EU gates which was a slight to the five million Turkish nationals who live in EU-member states.
“Delaying the accession process further is unforgivable. Our cooperation and solidarity with European countries will of course continue even if they do not accept us. But we are urging the EU once again: let us conclude this process now.”
The Turkish prime minister’s European tour is an attempt to revive accession talks that have practically ground to a halt. Turkey has closed only one of 35 policy chapters that must be agreed with candidates. France, Cyprus and the block’s executive Commission blocked all those remaining and Brussels halted talks with Turkey on the grounds that it does not meet EU standards on human rights or freedom of speech and religion. Late last year, Turkey won tentative support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke in favour of reviving the accession process and Ankara clearly sees new opportunities in the fact that Ireland has now taken over the rotating EU presidency from the Greek-Cypriot administration.
For its part, Prague has good reason to support Ankara’s EU ambitions. The export-dependent Czech economy is threatened by the drawn-out EU crisis and has been seeking other export destinations. Trade with Turkey has almost doubled since 2004 and the business and trade potential with one of the world’s fastest growing economies is considerable. President Vaclav Klaus, who took a group of over 60 leading entrepreneurs on an official visit to Ankara last year resulting in contracts worth millions of crowns, has other fish to fry.He firmly believes that Turkey’s membership in the 27-member block would change its character once and for all, putting an end to plans for deeper integration.