This post is also available in: Turkish
A guest blog by Peter Spoor, Head Press and Projects Team at the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey
My first impression on exiting the airport departure lounge is intense cold. I’m in Erzurum, where winter temperatures can drop below minus 25 degrees. I’m in town with colleagues from the Turkish EU Ministry to make the case for Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Aside from the temperatures, other impressions are of world class winter sports facilities, the usual wonderful Turkish hospitality and fantastic cuisine. I’d recommend the local speciality, cağ kebap. With a 25-minute transit from the departure lounge to world class ski slopes, a tourism boom is surely round the corner.
Our projects in Erzurum – a seminar for lawyers to raise awareness about the EU – drew a packed audience. I detected a huge appetite for more information. But inevitably there was also a sense of frustration: Turkey first applied to join the then European Community in 1987, but EU leaders only agreed to open accession negotiations in 2004. Since then, Turks perceive the process to have been grindingly slow and some polls suggest the public is beginning to lose interest.
The UK detects more grounds for optimism in 2013. Under the Irish Presidency, our aim is to ensure that Turkey’s accession negotiations gain momentum in the first half of this year. My trip to promote the case for Turkey’s membership outside the capital and Istanbul gave me a reminder of just how important this cause is.
Turkey stands to benefit enormously from adopting the political and economic norms which have helped to make the EU the world’s most successful trading bloc. The EU, in turn, needs an injection of Turkish dynamism and influence across the Middle East and beyond.