Estonian PM says would be happy to see Turkey as EU member
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, emphasizing the good historical relations between Turkey and Estonia, has expressed support for Turkey's EU membership bid, saying that Estonians would be happy to see Turkey as an EU member one day. During an interview with a group of Turkish reporters in Estonia, Ansip mentioned the deep relations between Turkey and his country even though it is not publicly well known. Noting that Estonia opened its first embassy in Turkey after gaining independence in the 1920s before the Soviet occupation, the leader also said Turkey is one of the few countries that have never recognized the unlawful Soviet occupation of Estonia. He also mentioned that Estonians are seen as a related nation by Turks due to the closeness of the Turkish and Estonian languages, both of which are from the Ural-Altaic linguistic family.
Ansip said that relations between the two countries have continued to flourish within the framework of the EU and NATO. Stating that the EU member country has fully supported Turkey's EU bid from the very beginning, Ansip said, "I believe that the EU enlargement policy will bring beneficial and positive results for Estonia, other countries and for the EU as a whole." "Even though our people are more enthusiastic about Croatia's membership, we would also be happy to see Turkey as an EU member," Ansip stated. Mentioning that Estonia also went through some hard times during its EU accession process, the prime minister said, "The EU countries thought that we could not fulfill the criteria [of EU membership], but we did it all and we achieved that by ourselves." Estonia became a member of the EU in 2004. Pointing to Estonia's increasing economic development in the last 20 years, Ansip noted that 70 percent of its exports -- which constitute 78 percent of the Estonian economy -- are to EU countries. The prime minister noted that the first priority of Estonians in supporting the country's EU accession bid was security concerns and not economic gains. Estonians view EU membership as an assurance against any threats from Russia. The fact that Estonians want to receive an economic share of the EU common market was the second biggest factor, Ansip noted. He also touched upon the long-term visa exemption issue between the Turkey and the EU, which Turkey says is a legal right based on the Ankara Agreement signed between Turkey and the then-European Economic Community in 1963 and its annexed protocol which came into effect in 1973. Ansip expressed his personal support for Turkey's bid for a free-visa regime with the EU, saying that Estonia places great importance on the free movement of capital and people. Ansip said the Estonian economy was completely oriented eastward during the Soviet period, but after the fall of the Soviet Union the country speedily integrated with Western economies. During this new period, Estonia benefited from great support and transfers of knowledge from Sweden and Finland, the leader said. Estonia participated in the eurozone in 2011, when the euro crisis was facing its most severe period. The prime minister said that it is better for small states like Estonia to join a bigger financial union in order to overcome the problem of a lack of confidence in their currency. He explained that after joining the eurozone, the country's attractiveness in terms of foreign investments increased, something that is also due to the state's tax policies. Noting that the country welcomes more Turkish investments, Ansip noted that Estonia is extremely attractive especially in IT investments as well as investments in other sectors such as forestry, agriculture and tourism. The prime minister also expressed pleasure over the start of direct flights on Tuesday between Tallinn, the Estonian capital, and Istanbul.