16 October 2004
In an interview with German daily Bild yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair predicted that Turkey's entry into the European Union would boost stability and security in the region and bring advantages to all of Europe. Stressing that he was strongly in favor of Turkey's membership although more reforms lie ahead of it, Blair said that he thought it would take at least 10 years before it could join. "A stable, democratic Turkey in the EU is extremely important for the stability and security of the region," he added. "It would be a great win for Europe." Blair underlined that anti-Turkey circles, in particular Germany's conservative Christian Democrats, should keep in mind that Europe had held out the prospect of membership since 1963. "Turkey can only join the EU when it fulfils the necessary criteria," added the British leader. "Turkey doesn't want any special treatment and won't get it. This Turkish government has pushed through radical changes to firm up democracy, respect human rights and create stability as a precondition for prosperity." At its December summit, EU leaders will make a final decision whether to start Turkey's membership talks, following a green light from the European Commission last week.