NEW YORK (Reuters) - Allowing Turkey to join the European Union would make the bloc more relevant, but Germany and France feel threatened by the Muslim-majority nation’s bid, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said on Wednesday.
Babacan, who is also Turkey’s economy minister, told the Foreign Policy Association’s World Leadership Forum in New York that it was difficult to say whether Turkey would achieve its goal of EU membership.
Turkey’s application to join the 27-nation EU has for years met with European resistance because of Turkey’s human rights record and frictions with Cyprus, an EU member that Turkey does not recognise.
“The relevance of the EU ... is decreasing very fast and especially after this economic and financial crisis,” Babacan said. “The weight of the European economy in the world has shrunk and will continue to shrink and only with enlargement the EU will be able to protect its power and influence.”
Turkey would be the only Muslim-majority country in the EU and one of its largest by population.
European officials have long held that Turkey must improve its human rights record to join the EU.
But European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also said on Tuesday that Turkey’s ambitions to join the bloc were being thwarted because of a hardening of attitudes in Europe against immigration in a number of EU countries.
“When Turkey becomes a member of the EU, Turkey is not going to be in a secondary position and that’s one of the reasons why countries like Germany and France are quite nervous about our membership,” Babacan said.
“From day one were going to be influential as Germany and France. It’s not going to be a Germany and France axis EU, it’s going to be a Germany, France and Turkey axis EU and we’re not sure if they are ready to share that power with us,” he said.