Viktor Tsvetanov,

Editor (Europe)

ANKARA – The European Union will lose Turkey as a potential candidate for membership if the country is not granted admission in the Union by 2023, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

World Economic Forum Turkey 2008

The statement was meant as a red light for the EU, as it is the first case Erdogan gives an indication of how long Ankara might continue on the path of Euro ambitions. Turkey’s accession has been dragged on for far too long and Erdogan’s conservative-Islamic AKP party’s patience is running out.

In the last several years, Turkey’s process of integration has virtually come to a dead end. Talks between the EU and Turkey were officially launched in 2005, but soon disagreements followed.

First, the question about Armenian genocide, raised by France in 2006, cooled down initial enthusiasm for the country’s future admission in the EU.  The key moment, however, was the absence of solution for the debate over the divided island of Cyprus.

Asked during a panel discussion in Berlin if Turkey would become a full member of the EU by 2023, he said: “They won’t keep us waiting that long, will they?” If they did, he added, “then the EU will lose, at least it will lose Turkey.”

This deadline coincides with the 100th anniversary of its foundation as a republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 2023.

According to Erdogan, the EU could benefit from future accession of Turkey in the Union. Future admission would also mean that the country will turn into the second biggest EU member with a population of 74 million (after Germany, which has a population of 81 million), with nearly 6 million Turkish citizens already living in the European Union.

Erdogan’s opinion has not been shared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opposes Turkey’s full EU membership. Merkel has come up with a compromising option, which is a privileged partnership instead, although Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle supports Ankara’s bid.

In terms of completing preliminary policy ‘chapters’, Turkey has a lot to improve on, as only one of the 35 accession clauses has been met by the country with an emphasis put on crucial areas such as human rights and freedom of speech

Turkey has adopted a twin-strategy and along with EU admission aspirations it is now “looking east” too. The country’s economic boom has not only tempted the EU to accept it, but also raised Turkey’s ambition to become a regional leader and enhance its relations with the Muslim world.

Image Courtesy: World Economic Forum (http://www.flickr.com/photos/15237218@N00/3237550428), (http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/2987795868/sizes/o/)

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Viktor Tsvetanov is The Global Panorama’s Europe Correspondent. In 2012, he joined The Global Panorama’s team, reporting on European current affairs, politics and technology. Viktor is currently in the final year of his degree in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University.