Abdullah Gül: The EU and Turkey need each other <i>PODIUM</i>

From a speech by the Turkish Foreign Minister at the Royal Institute of International Affairs
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In many respects, 2004 promises to be a momentous year for Turkey. Determined and sustained Turkish reforms will culminate in the European Council's decision in December 2004 to open accession negotiations with Turkey. Turkey's EU membership will mean Europe has achieved such maturity that it can incorporate a major Muslim country into its fold and show that the EU stands for common values rather than common religion.

For Turkey, membership will mean anchoring more than a century-old Western vocation into the highest standards of democratisation, good governance and integration. For the world, this would show that civilisations line up in terms of their democratic vocation, and not on the basis of religion.

Membership in the EU can do for Turkey what it did for Greece, Spain and Portugal. We are determined to provide for our citizens the highest standards of democracy, human rights and economic prosperity. Only last month the Turkish parliament passed two major UN conventions on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and two European conventions on corruption. There has not been an execution for 20 years in Turkey and we formally abolished capital punishment last year. The economic reform programme is at full speed.

We appreciate the support extended to Turkey. On the other hand, I am aware of the various excuses that are put forward by some circles against membership. Neither the Turkish people, nor many Europeans are convinced by these arguments. Turkey's size, scale, location, demographics, vocation, orientation, political system and her multi-regional and multi-dimensional peaceful foreign policy are all vital assets to Europe.