Italian envoy reiterates support for Turkey's EU bid
Italian ambassador to Turkey Carlo Marsili yesterday reiterated his country's strong support for Turkey's European Union membership bid. "The final goal of the negotiations is clear, full membership," Marsili told a conference hosted by Ankara University. He warned that negative statements from European leaders about Turkish accession were weakening the hand of Turkey's friends in the bloc and hampering the speed of EU-inspired reforms in Turkey. The ambassador underlined that the EU accession process is a tough one, requiring candidate states to go through a deep transformation process, adding that the final outcome is only full membership. "Those countries contemplating a different outcome will have violated past commitments," he said. Turkey began formal negotiations with the EU in October 2005 but the entry talks slowed down in recent years for a number of reasons, including Turkey's refusal to open its sea and air ports to traffic from Greek Cyprus. "A lack of a solution to the Cyprus problem is harming Turkey," said Marsili. He added that it is unusual for EU countries to criticize fellow member states, which is why Greek Cyprus remains unscathed. The ambassador said the problem makes Turkey's friends in the EU worry, including Italy, and said he hoped the dispute would soon be resolved in a way that pleases all the parties concerned. The EU has suspended eight chapters in Turkey's accession negotiations due to the Cyprus row. The EU has set a 2009 deadline for Turkey to open its ports to Greek Cyprus, and Brussels may ask for the suspension of membership talks if this does not happen. Turkey's perception as a Muslim country is leading some member states to oppose Ankara's membership in the EU, according to Marsili. "Turkey is a secular, democratic country which will be a role model for other Muslim states to prove that Islam can coexist with democracy and human rights," he said, adding that opposing Turkey just because it is a predominantly Muslim country contradicts the fundamental values of the EU. In related news, State Minister and chief negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis yesterday met with one of Turkey's leading business figures, Rahmi Koc. During the meeting, the two discussed recent developments regarding Turkey's EU accession talks and planned legislative and constitutional changes as part of Turkey's EU reforms.