Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council met with President Gul and then Prime Minister Erdogan in Ankara yesterday.
During his press statements he strongly supported Turkey’s EU membership bid. He commented that EU trade ties with Turkey were already very strong and that the EU block were pleased with the peace negotiations with the Kurds.
Van Rompuy was particularly impressed with the Turkish economy saying that its 5% growth rate of GDP was better than any EU nation. Also public debt at 35% made it the envy of its European neighbours.
Before he was president, Van Rompuy had expressed reticence about possible Turkish membership of the EU. In 2004, he stated “An enlargement [of the EU] with Turkey is not in any way comparable with previous enlargement waves. Turkey is not Europe and will never be Europe.” He continued “but it’s a matter of fact that the universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are also the fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey.”
More recently, commenting on the Cyprus issue, he felt that it was essential to find a solution and that the offshore gas discoveries should be a further incentive for a solution.