Egemen Bagis: 'Europe needs Turkey'
06 February 2012
Turkey's chief EU negotiator explains why his country wants to join an EU in the midst of a deepening economic crisis.
Talk to Al Jazeera - There is a change going on in the European political landscape. Although their agendas vary from country to country, political parties appealing to some form of traditional or nationalistic values have recently garnered significant footholds in the parliaments of Finland, Norway, Holland, Hungary, Sweden and Italy.
There is often one common concern that unites these parties: Can Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country, join the European Union?
Turkey is at the doorstep of Europe and it wants to come in. Despite growing anti-Muslim sentiments and a deepening economic downturn in Europe, Turkey is still negotiating to become a full member of the European Union.
On this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, we ask Egemen Bagis, Turkey's minister for European affairs and its chief EU negotiator, if Turkey is still as interested in joining the EU as it previously was or whether its perspective has changed.
He explains why, for Turkey, the process of joining the EU is "more important than the end result" and why aspiring to the standards of the European Union has been critical to his country's development.
Bagis describes the EU as "the grandest peace project in the history of mankind" and shares his views on how Turkey would be able to "turn that continental peace project into a global one".
He also discusses press freedom and reform of the judiciary; the issue of the Armenian 'genocide' and Turkey's relationship with France in the wake of the French senate's decision to approve a bill that will make it illegal to deny that the mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 was genocide; and Turkish foreign policy and his country's position in the region.
"If we had joined [the EU] we would have warned them and prevented them from going into these difficult [economic] situations. So maybe we could have prevented Europe from going down. Joining Europe doesn't mean we are assuming their debts, that doesn't mean we are assuming their unemployment. Right now, Turkey has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe and the fact that we will join the European Union, is not something that will happen tomorrow. By the time Turkey completes all negotiations, by the time all the chapters are completed, I'm sure this economic crisis will be over, because no crisis lasts forever. But even in the case that there are still difficulties, Turkey can contribute positively to closing the gap."
Source: Al Jazeera