Davos: Turkey expects to move into the world’s top 10 economies in 15 years as it steps up major reforms and becomes a more European country, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Saturday, 26 January.
He said Turkey is preparing for European Union membership despite opposition led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has tried to shift the goal of talks to a lesser partnership.
As a Muslim nation that is democratic, secular and multicultural, Turkey will add “huge strength” to the EU by expanding its cultures, ethnic groups and values and making the bloc “a truly global voice,” not just a “Christian club,” Babacan said.
“A Europe of one religion is a very dangerous approach,” he warned.
Babacan spoke to a small group of reporters and later to business and political leaders attending the World Economic Forum, stressing the country’s transformation over the last five years and its determination to continue economic, political and social reforms.
“For those who ask what kind of country Turkey is going to be in the next 10 to 15 years, it is going to be more and more of a European country,” he said.
Sarkozy “is not willing” to stop the EU negotiating process with Turkey and “the new German government has not become a barrier,” though German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party favors a “privileged partnership” rather than EU membership, Babacan said.
“For us, most important is to continue the process,” he stressed. This is “a win-win” situation for Turkey because it can continue its reforms which will enable the country to meet EU standards.
Whether Turkey becomes an EU member will not be decided just on whether it meets EU criteria but will be a political decision as well, Babacan said.
Sarkozy succeeded Jacques Chirac, who favored Turkish EU membership and voted with the other EU nations in 2004 to begin entry talks with Ankara. The talks began in 2005 and may last a decade.
The accession of Turkey, Babacan predicted, “is going to be probably one of the big peace projects of the world” in the 21st century.
Turkey is also preparing to become a major economic power, opening 10 embassies in sub-Saharan Africa and diplomatic missions in India and elsewhere to expand its international access, Babacan said.
Between 2002-2006, economic growth averaged 7.5%, he said. In 2007, growth will turn out to be 4-5% because of drought and higher energy prices, and “for this year our target is around 5 percent,” he said.
Currently, Turkey ranks 17th on the list of global economic powers.
“It will be in the top 10 by the year 2023 according to our and some international organizations’ projections,” Babacan said.
Turkish policy since 2002 has been “to have a peaceful and prosperous neighborhood,” he said.
Babacan said Turkey is “one of the main players” in Iraq, has “a good dialogue with Syria and Iran,” and just hosted Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Turkey is taking action against rebels from the banned Kurdish organization, PKK, operating in neighboring Iraq, who have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984, he said.
Babacan said the cross-border attacks are being undertaken after “strong military cooperation and cooperation” with the United States, with targets “jointly determined by the U.S. also.”
Turkey is “very careful” to differentiate between civilians and “terrorists” and is not targeting Iraqis, he said.
Babacan said Turkey opposes any nuclear power in the region and believes the nuclear problem with Iran should be handled “through dialogue and diplomacy” rather than the U.S. policy of sanctions and isolation.
“Just simply isolating Iran in our view causes Iran to be more united inside and weakens the hands of the reformers,” he said.