Europe would benefit from Turkish EU move, says Lidington

A Turkish accession to the European Union (EU) would help Europe to improve its credibility in the Arab world, British Minister for Europe David Lidington has claimed.Lidington said in his speech at an event at the Austrian National Bank (OeNB) yesterday evening (Mon) that the EU would have more influence on developments in the world if Turkey becomes its 28th member state.The member of the British Conservative Party claimed the reform process in Turkey would be accelerated if the country joins the EU. Lidington also pointed out Turkey’s economic strength and the country’s geopolitical importance. He added Turkey could become a bridge builder to the Islamic world. The minister concluded that Turkish membership in the EU would help other European countries to more credibility in Arab nations.The Tory also said Turkey would become an important partner of Europe in the fight against terrorism. Lidington explained he would prefer Europe to “orientate itself” at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rather than at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Lidington claimed decreasing support for EU membership among people in Turkey was proof of a rising self-confidence in the country and its importance in the world.The British Minister for Europe’s statements come just weeks after a poll by public opinion institute Karmasin showed that a majority of 61 per cent of Austrians opposed Turkey’s accession to the EU. Fifty-nine per cent said the same in May 2009.Eighteen per cent of Austrians (2009: 13 per cent) spoke out in favour of a so-called privileged partnership between the EU and Turkey, while only four per cent are in favour of Turkey joining the EU, down from seven per cent in May 2009.These figures – presented in December – came on the back of controversial statements by Kadri Ecvet Tezcan, the Turkish ambassador in Vienna.Tezcan claimed in an interview with daily newspaper Die Presse that Austrians were only interested in culture when on holidays abroad. The diplomat also said he would relocate the United Nations (UN) from Vienna were he the leader of the organisation.The ambassador’s remarks caused a heated debate over the relationship between Austrians and Turks.