Italy's Berlusconi: "We cannot imagine the EU without Turkey"
The First Intergovernmental Summit between Turkey and Italy will begin today in Izmir. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will chair the meeting that will be attended by many ministers from the two countries' governments. During the event, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan are expected to sign an agreement to establish a Turkish-Italian university in Istanbul. Speaking to Sabah daily yesterday in Rome prior to his departure to Izmir, Berlusconi said that Turkey and Italy enjoy good political and economic relations, characterizing Turkey as one of the most important European partners of his country. Supporting Turkey's EU accession bid, Berlusconi warned European leaders that excluding Turkey from the union would be an inexcusable mistake. "The EU is the natural destination of Turkish democracy. We cannot imagine the EU without Turkey. Turkey has a secular state organization with a predominantly Muslim population. It is the most important example that Islam can be in conformity with secular and democratic institutions. Turkey's this character is a great advantage for the union." Declaring yourself Turkey's advocate in the EU, Berlusconi dismissed any alternative for Turkey's full membership bid, and expressed his expectation that negotiations on the half of the frozen eight chapters would restart by the next year's June. On the Cyprus issue, he said, "Starting of comprehensive negotiations on the issue is a very positive step. Of course there are some problems and primarily Greek Cypriots should make efforts to solve those problems. Italy will do its part to contribute to the solution within the frame of the UN and EU."