Frustrated Turkey still wants EU entry, but maybe not euro

Wed Feb 13, 2013 2:14pm EST
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By Mohammed Abbas

LONDON (Reuters) - Turkey is committed to joining the European Union despite mounting frustration over decades of talks on the issue, but has little appetite for adopting the euro currency, a senior Turkish official said on Wednesday.

In a speech in London, Turkey's chief negotiator on EU accession said it was time the EU made up its mind on whether Turkey can join the 27-member bloc, and said it should be allowed in even if some countries object.

Talks on Turkish integration into Europe originally began in 1963, but the intractable dispute over the divided island of Cyprus - an EU member that Turkey does not recognize - have blocked talks on several policy issues candidate states must conclude before entry.

"We want to be in the EU, but the EU has to make a decision. The decision to start the negotiation process with Turkey was a unanimous decision, and only a unanimous decision can put an end to this process," Egemen Bagis, EU affairs minister and senior member of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said.

"If there's one principle of the EU I would like to criticize it's the unanimity principle ... One single member country, the Greek Cypriots, can block the opening of the energy chapter," he said, accusing Cyprus of holding the EU "hostage".

The island was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup.

Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan has said the delay was "unforgivable", warning that the EU would lose Turkey, a mostly Muslim and largely conservative country, if it was not granted membership by 2023.

Enthusiasm among the Turkish public for EU membership is waning given the bloc's economic woes, particularly the sovereign debt crisis hitting some members of the currency union, but Bagis was confident any referendum would pass.   Continued...

Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis talks during an interview with Reuters in Istanbul June 26, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer