Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) with Pierre Besnainou, president of the European Jewish Congress.
PARIS (EJP)--- During a recent visit to the Turkish capital of Ankara European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou met with Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan and foreign minister Abdullah Gull.
Erdogan talked about the “harmonious relations based on shared values” between Turkey and its 20,000 member Jewish community.
Besnainou expressed his satisfaction over the progress made by Turkey in its battle against racism and anti-Semitism in the country.
The European Jewish leader also expressed his support for Turkey’s EU membership, saying that it is “in the interest of the EU itself” and that “Turkey is a country that can also positively contribute to the stability of the region."
European Union leaders decided last December to halt membership negotiations with Turkey in eight out of 35 policy areas due to Ankara’s refusal to open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus, whose government Turkey doesn’t recognize.
Turkey said it will only open its ports and airports after steps are taken to end the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots in the northern part of the island.
EJP asked Besnainou about Turkey’s EU membership, a topic which continues to be a source of division among EU leaders.
EJP: Why should Turkey join the EU ?
Pierre Besnainou: I think we must consider very favourably Turkey’s entry into the EU. Of course within a process which has to be implemented on both sides. I think that Turkey has every reason to be within the EU not only for economic reasons but also for some criterias defined within the EU.
EJP: Do you understand those who are fearing the entry of millions of Muslims into the EU ?
Pierre Besnainou: Of course. If one declares that Europe is a Christian entity, I have no problem with this. But it has to be declared. In this case, Turkey, with a Muslim population, has no reason to be a EU member.
But when one tells me that this is not the case, that the EU is not a Christian entity, I can also accept it. The EU has been enlarged to Bulgaria and Romania, two countries which we have supported, so I don’t see why a Muslim country should not join. As long as one doesn’t say that the EU is willing to exclude a country with a Muslim population, I have no problem.
When I hear that an MEP from a new extreme-right group at the European Parliament starts its first parliament session with anti-Semitic comments, I can say that I was pleased to hear Jewish leaders in Turkey praising the attitude of the Turkish authorities towards anti-Semitism in the country. They are very sensitive on this issue.
I think also that Turkey is a country which can bring and ensure stability in the Middle East. This has been Turkey’s policy for many years. The country’s attachment to the European Union doesn’t appear for me as being absurd.
EJP: What about the Armenian issue ?
Pierre Besnainou: During our meeting, Prime Minister Erdogan confirmed his intention to open official Turkish archives to historians so that full light would be set on the painful historical dispute between Turks and Armenians.
We believe that Turkey’s opening all its archives to historians and scholars will help illuminate this matter.