Nick Clegg: “Turkish entry into the EU is a strategic necessity”

Nick Clegg is on a trade mission to Turkey today, and has announced £500m of business deals and £1m of funding for the Turkish Red Crescent in Syria.

He wrote this morning in Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, on the Turkish economy, trade between Turkey and the UK, visas for Turkish travellers, and the the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. You can read the article in Turkish over at Sabah; the English translation is below:

This summer for a few, glorious weeks the United Kingdom became the centre of the world as we hosted the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Both events showed the United Kingdom at its best.

Millions of spectators flooded into world class venues to watch world class sport. I know Turkish fans will have their own special memories, including Aslı Çıkar Alptekin’s historic 1500m gold on a breezy evening in the Olympic Stadium. One of my most abiding memories will be the welcome our magnificent band of volunteers extended to visitors from all over the world. It’s in this spirit of openness that I’m visiting Ankara and Istanbul this week, accompanied by representatives from the British business world.

The Turkish economy seems set for a comfortable landing this year, after years of stellar growth. A young, dynamic workforce, coupled with enterprising firms, have helped Turkey cope with the global financial turmoil of recent years. Record exports to the Middle East and North Africa show you are adapting quickly to the commercial opportunities presented by the Arab Spring. And I expect that, over the coming years, trade with the EU will continue to play a big part in Turkey’s likely ascent into the world’s top ten economies.

My visit this week is aimed at boosting our shared prosperity – here and in the UK. Two years ago, our governments set an ambitious aim of doubling bilateral trade by 2015. I’m delighted to say we’re well on our way. But we aren’t complacent and I’m confident that the delegation I’m travelling with this week will bring us even closer.

We’ll be focusing on the areas where deepening our ties will reap the biggest rewards. For example, promoting trade particularly between our small and medium sized business – the backbone of both our economies. The UK has the expertise to help Turkey embrace the economic challenges of the future. And there are opportunities to do more together in the industries – like advanced manufacturing – that are a priority for the UK.

We’re already making remarkable progress. Over 2,200 British companies have invested in Turkey, including high street names like Marks & Spencer, TESCO, Vodafone, HSBC, and Laura Ashley. Last year alone Turkish imports of British goods and services rose by 20%. The biggest single foreign investment in Turkey in 2011 came from Diageo, a British global beverages company, which purchased Mey Icki.

Turkish interest in the UK is also growing: many UK households now have a BEKO appliance. One of our biggest sporting institutions, Manchester United FC, has a sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines. United’s rival, Liverpool FC, has struck a deal with the Turkish clothing chain, Ramsey. And the Turkish financial and business services sector is increasingly looking to the City of London as a model as Turkey seeks to establish Istanbul as a regional financial centre.

In my conversations in Ankara and Istanbul I will champion the UK’s greatest assets: our pro-business tax and regulatory environment, the strength of our universities and research base, and our openness to foreign investment. I’ll also be emphasising our commitment to delivering a first class visa service for Turkish travellers. Every year millions of Turks go to the UK as tourists, students and to do business. We run a first class visa operation from Istanbul to ensure you can secure visas promptly. This year 94% of business visitors received their visa within five days. I’m pleased to announce that we’ve also launched a new “Business Bridge” service to ensure that key Turkish businesspeople benefit from even quicker processing times.

Aside from business, I’ll be discussing how the UK and Turkey can further improve our response to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria. Sadly, the UN Security Council has been unable to unite on the need to take action to secure Assad’s removal and protect ordinary Syrians facing his brutality. We share Turkey’s intense frustration at this failure. We are very keen to work with the Turkish Government in handling the consequences, not least the exodus of refugees. Turkey has responded to this challenge in a typically impressive manner. The speed with which the Government established camps to deal with the tens of thousands pouring across the border has drawn praise from around the world. The UK has already committed £30million to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria and the surrounding countries, making us the world’s second biggest bilateral donor. Our challenge now is to bring about the peace that would allow the hundreds of thousands of Syrian people who have fled their homes to return in safety.

The Syria crisis is a reminder of just how much the European Union has to gain from Turkey’s accession. I have long seen the case for Turkish entry into the EU as a strategic necessity. It will help Turkey achieve its aim of building a more democratic and free society, based on the rule of law, principles that lie at the EU’s core. It will enhance immeasurably the EU’s influence across the region. And it will signal to the world that, like the UK, the EU is open for business with Turkey too.

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  • Dinti Batstone 3rd Oct '12 - 3:32pm

    Good to see Nick re-affirming long-standing commitment to Turkish accession.

  • John Stevens 3rd Oct '12 - 4:16pm

    This sounds too much like the case for a two-speed or rather two-tier EU with Britain with the Turks in the outer ring for my taste. If this is LD policy now where do the Britain in the inner core supporters look to represent their views?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Oct '12 - 4:26pm

    An exciting possibility, and one I believe we may be signed up to in the long run, is to regard the periphery as a stepping stone towards the core. A bit Borg-like perhaps, but if there are benefits from being in the periphery then why prevent the core from reaping them too, and vice versa? Like life, properly shared trade is a positive sum game.

  • Tim Holyoake 3rd Oct '12 - 5:16pm

    In our understandable enthusiasm for Turkey joining the EU (and I can see the benefits of this), we also need to ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that the situation in Northern Cyprus is addressed. Simply ignoring UN resolutions won’t make them go away and the EU (and UK) should be doing everything in their power to ensure that this long running conflict reaches an equitable solution.

  • The above writer has taken my thunder. What, if any, steps is NC undertaking in respect of the situation regarding the TRNC on his visit. The embargo is a sham, and in the long run all it is making is the price for reunification higher.

  • John L Oakes 3rd Oct '12 - 9:28pm

    This is very welcome news -especially Nick’s committment to Turkey’s entry to the EU. But the party needs to reach a consensus on this topic :Andrew Duff MEP annoyed the Turkish Ambassador, His Excellency Unal Cevikoz, at a Conference Fringe meeting last week when he stated that Turkey should be given “Associate Membership”, but not the full membership which is currently being negotiated.
    This the more unfortunate because Duff is the Liberal spokesman on the Turkey/EU Liaison Committee, I understand.

  • John L Oakes 3rd Oct '12 - 11:01pm

    I should have noticed Cogload and Tim Holyoake above – two excellent contributions. Following Sir Graham Watson MEP’s recent suggestion, we need to put pressure on the various Foreign Ministers involved -starting with Douglas Haig- and get them in turn to bring bring pressure on Catherine Ashton, – the EU’s foreign minister- to compel the EU to fulfill its responsibilities and start playing a positive and impartial role in this continuing conflict, for a change.

  • Maybe, one day. But Britain is not ready for free labour movement with Turkey yet.

  • Turkey should not join the EU under any circumstances. It would be bad for Turkey and bad for the EU. The only rationale behind Turkey being invited to join is a military one and that is not a good enough reason.

  • Jonathan Webber 4th Oct '12 - 7:52am

    The DPM has been leading a UK Trade & Investment – – trade mission. You can find a press release on our Lib Dem West Midlands website.

    Turkey and its economy are of considerable importance to the UK and Europe as a whole. The Secretary General of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce is visiting me later this week to discuss closer relations between the and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce where I am Director of International Trade and Development , and I suspect our conversation will revolve around automotive and automotive supply chain initiatives and then other sector specific opportunities including life sciences, digimedia and general manufacturing.

    I am also involved in a variety of EU projects in Turkey – mainly about private sector capacity building – and through whhich I have no doubt whatsoever that Turkey represents a major trading partner as the UK economy looks to move into export-led growth.

    Well done Nick Clegg – great commercial diplomacy – and well done UK Trade & Investment for making it happen.

  • I think before we go gun-ho on Turkey joining the EU, we should perhaps take sometime in reviewing the current regional situation and ethnic origins.

    In my view an opportunity was and is being missed, in not recognizing and re-establishing Kurdistan (okay it may omit the province of Kurdistan within modern Iran). This would help in the creation of a natural regional trading block initially covering: Turkey, Kurdistan, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Which given the long history of Iran-Turkey relations would seem to be viable and do much to re-assure both Iran about Western intentions and Russia (the northern neighbour to this region).

    This situation naturally leads to the recognition that some countries, specifically Turkey, naturally belong to two trading blocks.

    So the question is whether the EU is up to the task of encouraging the mutually beneficial development of it’s neighbours and can cope with a member country that will have differing priorities to Brussels.

    As for Cyprus, it would seem the only real peaceful path to resolution is to follow the N.Ireland path; however I can see that this is made easier when all parties are members of the same club.

  • Helen Dudden 4th Oct '12 - 11:18pm

    There was also the question of human rights, and the treatment of women. The EU was founded as a platform for human rights, I hope that this will be encouraged, and promoted for the future.

  • Turkey has a very wide climatic range and can grow a great variety of food. It has manufacturing industries.
    Hence it has the capacity for self sufficiency in many sectors.
    It has schemes to conserve village life by providing rural employment. I am not sure if such schemes would fit the EU rules. Perhaps that is why constitutional expert Andrew Duff suggests associate membership.
    I am sure that some EU and Turkish businesses would gain greatly from Turkish membership of the EU, but I am not so sure that ordinary Turks would. Overall I think the EU has more to gain from admitting Turkey to Membership, than the Turks have.

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