Turkey in EU talks push as travel links to Ireland rise
TURKEY'S efforts to join the European Union will be opened during Ireland's presidency of the trading bloc, the newly appointed Turkish ambassador to Ireland, Necip Eguz, said yesterday as Turkey and Ireland announced improved travel links.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, the ambassador said that Turkey's near 50-year struggle to join the EU had been at a complete standstill for the past five years or so.
However, he said Ireland has been supportive of the country's move to become a member and that he's hopeful a new chapter of accession dialogue will open in coming months.
"It's been half a century now," he said, citing Turkey's first moves in 1959 to join the union. "Many people in Turkey think this is unjust." It applied for full membership in 1987.
Mr Eguz said it's "very hard to say" when Turkey might finally join the EU as it depends on the pace of talks. While about half of Turks support membership, only between 35pc and 37pc actually believe the country will be accepted as a member.
But he said he's hoping for a "revitalisation of the process" during Ireland's EU presidency, which began in January and ends in June.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore will lead an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Turkey next month. Annual two-way trade between the countries is about €1bn.
"That doesn't reflect the true potential," said Mr Eguz, who believes there's significant scope to boost both economic and cultural ties between the two countries. There are currently about 300 companies in Turkey that are either Irish-owned or in which there is Irish investment.
As part of those efforts to strengthen ties, leading football club Trabzonspor will play a friendly against Drogheda United at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin, tonight. A gala dinner follows afterwards in Drogheda.
During the Famine, Turkey dispatched three ships with food supplies to Ireland. They weren't permitted to land in Dublin and so unloaded their cargo in Drogheda.
From April, Turkish Airlines is increasing the number of weekly flights it operates between Dublin and Istanbul from seven to 10.
The airline said that apart from hoping to lure more Irish travellers to Istanbul, it wants to promote the city as a hub for onward traffic to destinations in north Africa, the former Soviet republics and the Far East.