Turkey wants EU leadership, says EU Minister Bagis
Turkey is not simply a candidate for European Union membership, but is a candidate for the union's leadership, EU Minister Egemen Bagis said today during his opening speech at the Town Twinning Workshop, a project aiming for international collaborations on local levels by partnering European and Turkish districts. Bagis said Istanbul's unique status as a "peaceful coexistence of all cultures and religions" makes it a vital player in the union membership process. Bagis highlighted the ongoing multicultural existence of the city, with "mosques and churches and synagogues" standing side by side, as well as its current "rise to stardom" by becoming the European capital for sports and culture simultaneously in the same year. Town Twinning, an ongoing program in line with the larger strategic project titled, "Istanbul Prepares for the EU" project, oversees collaboration between the local authorities of Turkish districts, with districts like Gaziosmanpasa and Bagcilar offering partnerships in topics ranging from vocational education to preschool education. The project aims to increase the administrative capacities of Turkish districts, to form international projects and collaborations, Union of Municipalities of Turkey's Deputy General Secretary Mehmet Keles said.