David Cameron warns EU not to shut Turkey out

PM to acccuse France and Germany of double standards in refusing EU membership in Ankara speech

David Cameron today challenges France and Germany over their opposition to Turkish membership of the EU when he issues a stark warning of the dangers of shutting Ankara "out of the club".

In a passionate defence of Turkey, whose EU ambitions have long been championed by Britain, the prime minister will accuse Paris and Berlin of double standards for expecting Ankara to guard Europe's borders as a Nato member while closing the door to EU membership.

"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," the prime minister will say in a speech in the Turkish capital.

"I believe it's just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent." The prime minister's speech comes at the start of a four-day visit to Turkey and India which he kicked off last night with dinner in Ankara with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister. Cameron will this morning lay a wreath at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern secular Turkey. In the afternoon he will fly to India for a three-day visit.

Cameron's tough language in his speech today reflects Britain's frustration that Ankara's EU membership negotiations have stalled ever since they were formally opened in 2005. Turkey's involvement in the Cyprus dispute and its refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot goods are holding up the talks. In March Erdogan accused Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, of "hatred" towards Turkey. Merkel has called for Turkey to be given a "privileged partnership" with the EU. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, strongly opposes Turkish membership of the EU.

Cameron today reserves special scorn for France as he will remind his audience that Britain knows what it is like to be blocked by Paris. He cites General Charles de Gaulle's famous "non" in 1963 and 1967 to British membership of the then-Common Market. The prime minister will say: "Do you know who said: 'Here is a country which is not European. Its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people ‑ admirable people though they are ‑ all point in a different direction. This is a country which cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even believes, be a full member'."

Cameron will add: "It might sound like some Europeans describing Turkey. But it was actually General de Gaulle describing the UK before vetoing our EU accession. We know what it's like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change."

The de Gaulle quotes were echoed by a later French president who summed up the French hostility to Turkey. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing famously said of Turkey that it was too poor, too big and too different.

The prime minister will confront this view when he criticises some Europeans who wrongly see the world "through the prism of a clash of civilisations". He will add: "Turkey can be a great unifier. Because instead of choosing between East and West, Turkey has chosen both. And it's this opportunity to unite East and West that gives Turkey such an important role with countries in the region in helping to deliver improved security for us all."

Cameron's speech comes amid fears in Britain that French and German opposition to Turkey's EU membership is leading Ankara to abandon Europe and look to the east.

Britain fears that the recent breach in relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv, after nine pro-Palestinians were killed by Israeli commandos in a raid on the Free Gaza flotilla in May, might have been easier to manage if Turkey felt it had a future in the west.

The prime minister will say that Turkey must be made to feel welcome in Europe because it is a secular and democratic state. But he will reach out to Turkey's Muslim majority by saying how important Islam is to Europe."I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values."

But the prime minister will say that Turkey must press ahead with domestic reforms to allow its EU membership to proceed. Turkey has introduced tentative reforms to bring it into line with the liberal traditions of the EU.

"I'm not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture," the prime minister will say. "We want you to be Turkey – because it's as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens. But we want you to push forwards aggressively with the EU reforms you're making."


Nicholas Watt in Ankara

The GuardianTramp

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