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Tuesday, 20 January 2009


The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last night spoke of Turkey's intention to build nuclear power stations to meet its growing energy needs. Addressing a dinner organised by the European think tank, Friends of Europe, Mr Erdogan described how Turkey will soon be making its final decision about the nuclear power he claimed it now required.

I must say I find this an uncomfortable thought. Although I have no objection to nuclear power in the UK and other countries with an established nuclear capablity, the idea of a non-nuclear power developing the potential, albeit for peaceful, civil use fills me with dread. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, my misgivings may be misplaced. However, we only have to think of Iran to see where this could go.

Much of the reminder of Erdogan's speech at the elegant Cercle Royal Gaulois Artistique et Litteraire in Brussels, was, as you may have expected, taken up with Turkey and the European Union. The EU, he claimed, will not be served by a fortress Europe mentality, and such an attitude will not help solve the present economic crisis. As far as Turkey joining the EU was concerned, the Turkish PM pointed out that a number of countries had once been considered inadmissible for EU membership. As well as mentioning Spain and Portugal, he cited the twice vetoed application from the United Kingdom. Turkey, which has had a successful customs union with the EU since 1996, is also negotiating for EU membership. Ten chapters of the accession process have already been opened and one is practically closed.

Mr Erdogan stressed that Turkey's goal is full membership of the EU. Privileged partnership is not acceptable and has never been raised in connection with any other country. Turkey will benefit the EU. It is the 17th largest economy in the world and the sixth largest in Europe while also being a member of the G20. Turkey's economy has consistently improved. Six years ago the GDP was 259 billion US dollars; it is now $750 billion. Inflation has been reduced from a high of 30 per cent to 10 percent and interest rates now stand at three per cent. All this means that Turkey is in line with the economic criteria in the Maastricht Treaty for EU accession.

As I have indicated before on this blog, I am a strong supporter of Turkey joining the EU. I think all of us involved in the EU now have a responsibility to make it happen.

On the question of Cyprus, Mr Erdogan expressed his displeasure that the Greek Cypriots had rejected in a referendum the plan put forward by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. He also took the view that the north of Cyprus is not in the EU and told the audience that the Turks would always be one step ahead of the Greeks. This was not, I fear, a very helpful response. I only hope those participating in the current peace talks take a more enlightened view.

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