Prime Minister David Cameron said in Ankara on Tuesday that he supports Turkey’s bid for European Union membership. Turkey’s rise, he believes, should be seen as an opportunity for Europe, not a threat.
Cameron, who, during the elections last April, positioned himself as something of a Euroskeptic, pledging, for instance, never to surrender the British pound in favor of the euro, has apparently taken notice of Turkey’s increasingly eastward policy and realizes that the country may work as a unifying force between East and West.
Although Turkey still seeks EU membership, its ambitions have been disheartened in recent years because of Europe’s apparent unwillingness to admit it into the union. In many Western European member states, mounting concerns over immigration and supposed Islamification coupled with widespread Euroskepticism is preventing national leaders from arguing in favor of expansion. Cameron walks a different path.
The prime minister understands that Turkey’s economic ties with its neighboring Muslim states are not undermining its potential as an asset to European interests in the Middle East. For while to Europeans, Turkey may seem something of an underdeveloped, backward culture desperately trying to Westernize, to many in the Middle East, it is the nearest thing to modernity present. As much as Turkey is a gateway to the West to them, it can be Europe’s arch to the East and Turkey ought to be treated as the greater regional power it is.
Moreover, Turkey has for decades been a valuable NATO partner. Cameron is frustrated that in spite of its contributions to the mission in Afghanistan, much of Europe won’t consider closer relations.
“I believe it’s just wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent,” he said.
Cameron added that he intends to foster a new relationship between Turkey and the United Kingdom because the former is “vital” to the British economy and security. The prime minister signed a strategic partnership document with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to set out how the two governments will intensify relations in a range of areas, including trade, defense and culture.
The visit to Turkey is Cameron’s fifth bilateral overseas visit since becoming prime minister, following trips to France, Germany, Afghanistan and last week’s visit to the United States.