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Cameron gives unequivocal backing to Turkish membership of EU

By Tim Montgomerie

4831787742_01646a8584 On his way to India, Cameron is spending 24 hours in Turkey (he is photographed with Prime Minister Erdoğan on arrival). According to the Financial Times the Prime Minister will give strong backing to Turkish membership of the EU:

“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a Nato ally... it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been... My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.”

But Mr Cameron's promise to be the “strongest possible advocate" of Turkish entry to the EU is, as the FT reports, likely to be "cost-free". "Membership talks have largely stalled over contentious issues such as Cyprus," the newspaper notes, continuing: "Even the most optimistic pro-EU voices in Turkey speak of membership in a matter of decades, not years."

Writing for ConservativeHome, Max Wind-Cowie of Demos recently made the case for Turkish membership:

"The EU has helped to nurture democracy, tolerance and openness in those Eastern bloc countries that are now members and which have developed vibrant political cultures free from Sovietism (it is no coincidence that our new conservative allies in the European Parliament are drawn overwhelmingly from those countries) – I would like to see it do the same in Turkey.  I support Turkish accession because of the benefits that it would bring to a country that is a fledgling democracy with much to gain from being part of an institution that values and requires those principles.  But I also support it because it would spread the EU more thinly and make political union harder to entrench."

Tuesday 9am update:

Turkish reforms have put the country on the path to join the "secular EU", Cameron says in his full speech:

I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organisation.  And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none. Likewise Turkey is a secular and democratic state. This is all the more reason to make Turkey feel welcome in Europe. I know Turkey has already made significant reforms in just the last few years. The bans on teaching and broadcasting of Kurdish – scrapped. A new State Kurdish television station – up and running. Death penalty – scrapped. Penal code – reformed. Democratic institutions – strengthened. These are significant changes. And they should be recognised. In encouraging you to go further... I’m not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture.  We want you to be Turkey – because it’s as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens.  But we want you to push forwards aggressively with the EU reforms you’re making. We want you to take the necessary measures to open the Competition chapter, as the next step in the accession process. Because just as countries draw great strength from the openness of their societies, so Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy."

10.30am Video of key section of Cameron's remarks and full text.


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