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Anförande vid Bosphorus Conference: The EU and Turkey - Drifting Apart?

Anförande vid Bosphorus Conference i Istanbul, Tyskland

It's always a pleasure to come here to Istanbul in order to reflect on the future of the future of Europe. And looking back on our long European history, we are all aware of the important role that has been played by the wider area of the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, it could be claimed that the history of Europe is inseparable from the history of what has been happening here by the Bosphorous.

And most of us would argue that what has applied to history will apply to the future as well. Within the European Union, we are now busy putting the finishing touches on the treaty to reform our institutions.

We hope the Reform Treaty can be signed towards the end of this year, be ratified by the 27 parliaments during the course of next year and start to be implemented some time in 2009 - the same year as we will have new elections to the European Parliament as well as a new European Commission.

There are many driving forces behind this Reform Treaty, but perhaps the most significant one is to make it possible for our Union to strengthen its voice on global affairs by creating new institutions and instruments in the field of foreign and security affairs.

This is something that our respective electorates - even those otherwise somewhat less enthusiastic about the Union - are asking for. But even more it is something that is asked for by the rest of the world. In meetings during the past year I have been impressed by the strength of the demand for a stronger European role in world affairs that I have encountered around the globe.

If there is something that has made the European Union stronger on the global stage if we look back at the previous decades it is of course the process of enlargement.

If we were to think about a European Union without Britain, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary or all others that have joined the original six it would of course be something that could never aspire to the role that we together can now aspire to.

It is enlargement - probably more than anything else - that has made the European Union increasingly relevant and important also on the wider global stage.

Looking back, two things can be said about the different rounds of enlargement that the Union has seen during the half-century since the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

The first is that each of them have initially been meet by something very considerably less than enthusiasm by those members up until that time.

Indeed, France put in its very public and vocal veto against any British moves towards membership for nearly a decade.

And I vividly remember all the moves undertaken to try to prevent my country - together with Austria, Finland and Norway -from even submitting our applications for membership. And when it came to the final vote on our membership in the European Parliament there were app. 80 members who - for the one reason or the other - refused to give their approval.

So there has always been a significant amount of doubt and reservation against any new wave of Union members. The second is that all enlargements after some time have come to be seen as great success stories.

There is the unavoidable shake-down cruise as the ship moves to accommodate the new actors. But things normally settle somewhat faster than expected, and the new ship is always seen not only as larger but also as better and as more impressive than before.

The European Union is still to some extent in that period of shake-down cruise after the huge enlargement - 10 countries and a 100 million people from Estonia to Bulgaria - that brought in all those countries for a generation part of the wider Soviet empire.

We see this in some of the discussions we had with our friends in Poland over the Reform Treaty, and some of the discussions necessary with our friends in Romania and Bulgaria over there fulfillment of the important obligations of European Union membership.

We are also in situation where I would argue that the competitive forces that are so clearly reshaping our world are building up stronger in our European economies than probably anywhere else in the global economy.

The fierce forces of change coming from the accelerating globalization - the return of Asia, the revolution in science and technology - is affecting each and everyone around the globe.

But we should not underestimate the fierce force of change coming from the rapid enlargement of the European single market into the largest integrated market in the world, causing the rapid reshaping of the patterns of both consumption and production across our continent.

It is perhaps not entirely unnatural - it would indeed be to break the pattern of the past that I have indicated - that enthusiasm for a new major wave of enlargement is somewhat limited in some European countries.

But the point I would like to make is that we should see this as neither a first in the history of Europe nor the last word on this important subject.

Indeed, I fail to see that we can go forward with the aspirations we have in the field of foreign and security affairs, or in meeting the demands that we see coming from the global strategic agenda confronting us, if we were to go back on our commitment to further enlargement.

It's not only about the geostrategic implications this would have in Southeastern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean or the wider Eastern parts of our Europe - although I believe that closing the door to the Western Balkans, beyond Croatia, most notably Serbia, to Turkey or the Ukraine - to name just these three very different issues - would be a strategic calamity of the first order. Because in closing one door, you risk opening up other doors.

If a country is told that the door it aspires to go through in order to reach what it believes is a better future will be shut, that country over time is likely to start to look for other doors to go through - and there might indeed be others willing to open up such alternatives.

We have to contemplate not only the immediate consequences of one door being shut - but of others being opened up.

And that reinforces my point about the geostrategic calamities that we might be faced with in regions - the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the wider East - of critical importance to all of Europe.

There is no denying that the process of further enlargement will be a very demanding one. I'm thinking less in demands on the institutions of the European Union than in demands on the countries that are aspiring to membership.

Turkey has certainly made very important progress on its long-term path of European reforms during the last few years. And although the European Commission in its assessment last year said that the pace of reforms had slowed down, I believe that the impressive democratic consolidation we are seeing now in Turkey should pave the way for starting to accelerate the process again.

We all know that some of the issues that need to be faced are difficult. But I find it hard to believe that the country of Ataturk - the country of profound reforms and changes - will not be able to steer itself towards the goals history is setting for it, rather than being dragged down by the burden of decisions, choices and rules have their roots in an increasingly distant past.

But the burden should not be only on Turkey - or the other accession countries.

We must all show greater determination in tackling some of the difficult issues that we have perhaps being shying away from for too long.

We have to tackle the issue also of the status of Kosovo in order to also free up Serbia and the other countries of that region for accession to the Union. And this is not primarily an issue for either Moscow or Washington - they are important partners - but an issue for Europe - the EU. We have to tackle the issue of Cyprus. Failure to overcome this shameful division would not only risk making the division of the island de facto permanent, but would also endanger cooperation between EU and Nato in areas like Afghanistan and Kosovo and could well completely derail the membership aspirations of Turkey.

The previous negotiations under UN auspices provide an excellent basis for moving towards a united Cyprus.

Earlier this year, the EU committed itself to the resumption without delay of the work aiming at the adoption of the Commission proposal easing the conditions for trade with the areas of the Republic of Cyprus in which its government does not exercise effective control. This must be done.

But it is of course also imperative that Turkey is prepared to fully implement the provisions of the customs union - allowing also the ships and aircrafts of the Republic of Cyprus to use its ports and airports.

And we all know the necessity of moving forward with the different issues still there between Greece and Turkey. I am convinced that there is recognition in both Athens and Ankara that this is in the true strategic interest of both countries - and profoundly in the spirit of European integration.

I belong to those that hope that we will one day see Turkey as a full member of the European Union - and the city of Istanbul taking a place alongside London and others as one of the vibrant and dynamic hubs of globalization on the continent of Europe.

Such a European Union would in my opinion be an even stronger global force than the one we can envisage today.

With up towards 600 million citizens and new vibrant economies as part of it, the Union will be able to retain its position as the largest integrated economy of the world, will get new opportunities of further increasing its global competitiveness, will reinforce its message of openness and tolerance of different cultures, traditions and religions, and will be able to reach out even more strongly to new areas of the world.

Such an open Europe - between London, Istanbul and Stockholm - could be a magnet for talent and creativity that would give Europe a real possibility of truly shaping the new age that we are heading into. But the road from here to there will be neither fast nor easy.

That's why it's so important that we are coming together here by the Bosporus to discuss the tasks ahead for all of us in the years to come.

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