In your leading article "The EU must not shut the door on Turkish membership", (7 April), you rightly highlight the stubborn, confused and old-fashioned opposition from France and Germany to Turkish EU accession.
It is vital to appreciate Turkey's importance in new areas, alongside her traditional military and diplomatic roles. Turkey is set to become one of the world's most important energy-transit states. It can become the EU's most important energy gateway, lying close to 71 per cent of the world's proven gas and 73 per cent of its oil resources. It can help boost EU energy security as new non-Russian oil and gas fields are developed in the Caucasus and Middle East, importantly including Iraq, which holds the world's third-largest oil reserves.
The EU is rightly looking to cut its dependence on Russian gas imports. The answer lies in diversification and Turkey holds the key. Where Russia wishes to build the South Stream gas pipeline to pump more Russian gas to Europe, Turkey plans the Nabucco pipeline to pump non-Russian gas to the EU. It can also provide Iraqi oil with a valuable gateway to the EU and the Mediterranean, thus negating the longer transit routes from the Persian Gulf.
Europe's energy-hungry member states should back Nabucco and recognise Turkey's importance as an energy hub. EU energy security and Turkey's successful accession to the EU go hand in hand, irrespective of the mutterings from Paris, Berlin and Vienna.
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies,
Why the pirates look like heroes
The pirates of Somalia are not like the Taliban as you suggest ("The world needs to act together to crush piracy", 16 April). The international community never stole food from Afghan farmers as trawlers from many countries have stolen fish from Somali territorial waters for over a decade. What irony that warships now patrolling these waters fly the same flags as did those trawlers.
Today, two trawlers not registered by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, pirated or arrested in Somali waters, lie moored at Ga'an. Nearby, the tugboat Buccaneer and two barges, claimed to be laden with toxic waste about to be dumped, await UN inspection. Life on this coast is not only pirating, it's survival. Even so, oblivious to sage advice, recent UN Security Council resolutions bent on attacking pirates at sea have only served to make life harder for UN, EU and other agents working for peace on land. The efforts of the international community are incoherent and short-sighted.
This week's Donor Conference in Brussels might well prolong this muddled approach but there's another voice, hitherto ignored, which should be heard. The Somali diaspora in six EU states and in Australia, Canada and the US has agreed a joint statement which outlines how its many talented members can work for peace and development in Somalia. It takes a robust line on piracy by foreigners and locals alike and makes proposals on toxic dumping.
The diaspora should be heeded, as its remittances are important to Somalia, but the UN and EU continue to treat its signatories with indifference.
Strategies for Peace, London SW6
Your leading article "The world needs to act together to crush piracy" is strongly aspirational in tone but fails to address the complexity of the Somali crisis. It is true that a form of legitimate governance needs to be established in south and central Somalia, which in turn could control the land-based operations of pirates.
However, the idea of small groups of Somali youths taking on the might of the world's navies is exercising a strong appeal on hearts and minds in the country. There, the pirates are perceived as a form of environmental freedom fighters, defending Somali shores against alleged illegitimate fishing and the dumping of toxic waste.
Al Shabaab, the radical Islamist movement in Somalia, is reported to be setting up two pirate units to muscle in on the action. Turf wars between militias defending the pirates' interests and those of Al Shabaab have reportedly already taken place near the town of Hobyo. The killing of Somali fighters by the US navy triggers the issue of blood compensation or diya, traditional to Somali society, and the call appears to have already gone out to "behead US or French citizens".
The strengthening of the moderate Islamic Courts Union supporting the government in Somalia is the only way forward. Aid and support for a population of 3.5 million already suffering from a humanitarian disaster is the real problem. Food-aid and medical supplies may be more effective in establishing the legitimacy of a fragile government and over time, serve to address the piracy issue (and migrancy) more effectively than flotillas of the world's navies patrolling off-shore.
Dr Joseph Mullen
Expert Nationality Witness (Somalia), Senior Fellow (Hon) University of Manchester
Container ships and oil tankers are huge and pirate-crewed "fishing vessels" comparatively tiny. How do the pirates board their targets unopposed?
The simple expedient of recruiting a few well-trained and properly equipped security personnel would reduce the number of successful attacks, improve safety for vulnerable crew members and make economic sense, given the vast sums at stake in terms of lost cargo and ransom.
Nurse struck off for breaking trust
Your editorial "Silencing the truth" (17 April) demonstrates a failure to understand professionalism and the responsibilities of a professional body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Margaret Haywood was not struck off the professional register for whistle-blowing; that is another issue. She was struck off for abusing her position as a nurse by using patients to create a film for the BBC. The motive may have been honourable, but she broke her trust. As an experienced nurse she must have known that by filming patients without their consent she compromised nurse/patient trust and the patients' right to privacy.
She acted unprofessionally, and it is on that basis that the professional body judged her. It is not about a cover-up, but about the trust any member of the public should be able to expect from a professional person, whether they be a lawyer, architect, doctor or nurse.
Roger F Fisher
Shakespeare's true face revealed
I am writing to correct your report of 28 March, about the newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare from the Cobbe collection, that the cleaning of the painting in 2002 has damaged the picture or removed any "priceless evidence" of the sitter's appearance. On the contrary, this removal of early repaint, which had been applied over an existing varnish layer by another hand and was of palpably lower artistic quality, has revealed the actual appearance of the sitter at the time the picture was painted, apparently from life.
The repaint was carefully removed after it had been thoroughly examined by the restorer, and after clear evidence had been found that it was neither part of the original composition, nor was it executed by the talented, but so far anonymous, original artist (the presence of an underlying varnish implies that the picture was considered finished and had left the artist's studio prior to the changes to the hair).
The underlying paint thus revealed is in extremely good condition, and far from the restoration being "botched" it has been carried out to the highest standards.
The Cobbe picture, which is clearly the original of all the extant versions, has been revealed by restoration to be of a higher artistic quality than was previously discernible, with the added merit that it now shows the actual appearance of the subject from life around 1610.
Director, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Where does No 10 find these people?
A C Bolger (Letters, 18 April) asks why Downing Street doesn't hire grown-ups instead of dirty-minded schoolboys. Perhaps No 10 ought to publish their selection procedures for special advisers.
Are the jobs advertised? Can anyone apply or do you have to be a crony or, as in the case of jobs for certain MPs, a family member? When interviewed, are the candidates asked about appropriate conduct in public office? Are they given psychometric tests to establish their stability? Are references taken up?
Once appointed, is proper training given, for example on the use of emails? Is the successful applicant's conduct kept under review?
Anyone else who has risen to the same level as a special adviser on a six-figure salary will have jumped through these hoops. As taxpayers we are surely entitled to be assured that similar safeguards are in place in relation to jobs funded by the public purse.
John E Orton
So, with regard to the Damian McBride debacle (report, 17 April), Gordon Brown has stated that "I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately".
Am I missing something? If the Prime Minister had taken full responsibility, would he have not been the one to have gone immediately? And, given the frequent tendency to use the phrase as an alternative to resignation, can anyone explain to me what taking "full responsibility" actually means nowadays?
Dr Andrew Meads
F Bell (letter, 17 April) believes that the foot soldiers of Labour have vanished. Quite the opposite here in Oxford, where we go out in droves and recently trebled Labour's majority in a council by-election. Last year not a single Conservative was elected to the City Council.
Grass-roots Labour is alive and kicking here, and if the rest of the country follows our example Britain can look forward to a fair, and harmonious future.
Dr Ian Flintoff
Clement Attlee did not need special advisers to make up his mind on a subject. Even as Prime Minister, he travelled on the underground, and above ground walked from Number 10 and hailed a passing taxi. He was thrifty in spending on equipment and only agreed to the installation of a tickertape machine at Number 10 for the latest cricket scores. New Labour should go back to Old Labour.
W R Haines
So the Chancellor wants to save money? Here is how. Scrap ID cards and the supporting database (saves £20bn), scrap the NHS database (saves £12bn), abolish VAT on adult videos (saves Jacqui Smith's hubby £1.30) and on bathplugs (saves Jacqui 11p). Every little helps.
Susan's got substance
Britain's Got Talent contender Susan Boyle will perform useful social and commercial functions if she leads a charge of those whose talent is recognised in spite of very ordinary looks. This nation is already providing livings for far too many photogenic but vacuous "celebrities". The triumph of substance over style may now also be reflected in the commercial world as consumers, eager to rise to the challenges of the recession, switch their allegiance from products and services which are all hype to cheaper alternatives that outperform their glossily marketed counterparts.
Before Easter we listened to MPs explaining at length that their expenses were high because their salaries were too low. After Easter, MPs are explaining that they would never start a scurrilous rumour. Their ethics forbid it. Meantime, the recession continues and people are losing their jobs and homes. It is time this narcissistic, self-serving chamber devoted attention to the state of the nation and not the state of its own image.
I'm no Anglo-Saxon
Please could The Independent (leading article, 11 April) stop referring to me as an Anglo-Saxon? This term in its current usage comes from across the Channel, where it seems to be used as a thinly veiled insult to a perceived British/American rapport or common identity. What does it mean? Does it refer to English-speaking nations or just Britain and America? Does it include Ireland? Surely it is apparent that Britain is a multi-cultural and multiracial society with little in common with the Anglo-Saxons who once dominated parts of Britain.
I see from Andrew Keen's "New media" column (media, 20 April) that the days of blogging are over and that blogs are about to be replaced by "real-time social media personal portals". It's reading about developments like this that make me feel so happy that I am merely the reader of a newspaper.
Northwood, Middlesex (an address, not a domain)