- r. Prime Minister, I would like to begin with October 3. How do you perceive Turkey's current situation?
The accession talks have to begin for Turkey to become a member. There will be many ups and downs. Unfortunately, this is an unescapable aspect of a process like this. The entrance of a large and important country like Turkey into the EU is an important subject....Turkey would be an honor for the EU. Personally, I am on the side of accepting Turkey into the EU. It would be good, both for Turkey and for Europe. And I am sure that we will achieve this goal of ours.
- Why do you do you lend so much support to Turkey's entrance into the EU? Leaders like Schroeder and Berlusconi also openly support Turkey's entrance into the EU. But your situation is much different from theirs. What is behind this support of yours?
There are two reasons. The first is that Europe will benefit not from looking inward, but from opening up to the outside world. The world will benefit from the union of economics and politics resulting from opening up. The second reason is that Turkey could be a bridge for us between Europe and the Arab countries. As a large and Muslim country, Turkey would also much many interests in such a union. Alongside the fact that EU membership would be important just for Turkey alone, its membership would be an important symbol for the world and the criteria of what it means to be European, both of which are in flux.
- Some countries in the EU are still making contradictory statements about Turkey....
I can understand why some corners of the EU are conflicted by the possibility of a Turkish EU membership. Turkey is a big country. A Muslim country. Let's not forget: England, after years of struggle, finally entered the EU. People need to understand that whenever there's a question of a large country entering the EU, this will happen. Whether it's a Muslim or a Christian country, from southern Europe or northern Europe, when a new country enters the EU, people always wonder "what kind of changes will this bring in our daily lives?" This is natural.
- How long do you think membership would take for Turkey?
This depends on the speed of the changes Turkey makes. In the last years, Turkey has really increased its level of changes....Let me make it clear, since Prime Minister Erdogan has come to power, the quality of leadership, the strength, the decisiveness, and the changes have all really surprised me. With all of these things in place, Turkey will act faster.
- In your speech yesterday to Labor Party members, you didn't talk at all about Turkey's prospective EU membership. While at the same time, many other European politicians are using a potential Turkish membership as a tool for domestic politics. Aren't you afraid of public opinion in England?
England basically supports a Turkish membership. But maybe if you asked a citizen on the street, I would be wrong in saying this....But it's a fact, we have never had a fear of Turkish membership. I have always worked to convince people and the EU that we need to enlarge the union.