Turkey rejects "privileged partnership" Chief Negotiator Bagis reiterates
There is no "privileged partnership" alternative to European Union membership in the EU acquis, Turkey's Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis said yesterday, branding such an offer an "insult" to Turkey. Speaking to reporters after meeting in Istanbul with Steven Vanackere, the foreign minister of current EU President Belgium, Bagis said Turkey "will never accept (privileged partnership) in any way." The proposal, a formula falling short of full EU membership for Turkey, was first introduced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2004. Stating that Turkey first applied for EU membership in 1959 and has been negotiating since 2004, Bagis said Turkey has successfully managed to open 13 out of 33 chapters and is working hard to open the remainder. "If EU regulations changed, different membership alternatives were developed, and several member countries decided to alter their membership status, then this offer could be made to Turkey," he explained. "However, it is insulting to offer Turkey something like privileged partnership at this point. No country suggests this to Turkey on official platforms. Over the past year, no leader used this phrase during discussions on Turkey. Turkey-EU integration benefits both sides." Saying that Belgium considers Turkey a strategic EU partner, Vanackere, for his part, reiterated that there is no such thing as "privileged partnership" in the EU acquis. Explaining that countries that start negotiations aim for full membership and that membership talks are open-ended, he said the ultimate goal is membership. "If a candidate country lives up to its obligations, it can become a member of the EU. We also support this," he added.