BBC News | 27 July 2010 | 00:23 GMT
David Cameron is to argue strongly for Turkey’s membership of the European Union on Tuesday, saying he is "angry" at the slow pace of negotiations. On his first visit to Turkey as prime minister, Mr Cameron will say he will "fight" for Turkey’s bid to join the EU and to become a "great European power". He is expected to compare hostility in some parts of the EU to this to the way in which UK entry was once regarded. After concluding his visit to Turkey, Mr Cameron will travel on to India. He will be joined by a host of British business leaders as he seeks to boost trade links with one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Mr Cameron – who arrived in Ankara on Monday – is expected to agree a new strategic partnership with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during his visit.
In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Cameron will say he wants to "pave the road" for Turkey to join the EU and criticise those who want to delay the process. A European Union without Turkey at its heart is "not stronger but weaker….not more secure but less…not richer but poorer," he is expected to say. "I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it." Referring to former French leader General de Gaulle’s efforts to block British membership of the EU in the 1960s, he is expected to make an apparent swipe at some other EU countries’ attitude to Turkey. "We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change. "When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally, and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been…."My view is clear. I believe it is just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent."
Turkey opened accession negotiations with the EU in 2005 but is considered very unlikely to join in the next ten years, partly due to opposition from countries such as France. Turkey’s refusal to recognise EU member Cyprus, growing support for pro-Islamic parties on the mainland and the treatment of the Kurdish minority in the country all remain potential stumbling blocks. Since 2005, only 11 out of 35 "negotiating chapters" relating to accession talks have been opened for discussion and only one has been "provisionally closed".
Describing himself as the "strongest possible advocate" for greater Turkish influence in Europe, Mr Cameron will say that those who oppose EU membership are driven by either protectionism or narrow nationalism or prejudice. "Those who wilfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies or cultures." "All of these arguments are just plain wrong. And as a new government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them."
While praising Turkey’s secular and democratic traditions, Mr Cameron is likely to stress that Turkey must continue to push forward "aggressively" with economic and political reforms to maintain momentum towards EU membership. Stressing the vital role Turkey plays in the region, he will say it has a "unique influence" in helping to build a stable Afghanistan through political and economic co-operation and fostering understanding between Israel and the Arab world. He will also deliver a firm message to Iran, further sanctions against whom Turkey opposes, saying there is no other "logic" to Tehran’s uranium enrichment programme other than to produce a bomb. "So we need Turkey’s help now in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community," he will say.