A hero’s welcome in Istanbul for Turkey’s Prime Minister, at least from his supporters, who hailed his return from the groundbreaking EU summit in Brussels that at last opened the door on Turkey’s quest for EU membership.
“We have solidified 41 years of effort” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan to several thousand people, many of whom carried banners saying things like “No EU without Turkey”, or “Erdogan , conqueror of the EU”. He said that until the October the third date set for the start of negotiations he would be pressing on with a vast reform programme designed to make Turkey more EU-compatible, but major sticking points remain. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern remarked Erdogan’s insistance he was not recognising Greek Cyprus gave a bitter taste to the clebratory toast at the summit’s end, and the EU ended up having to drop a demand Turkey initial such a recognition on Friday, although that will have to come by October if the talks are to start at all. Additionally, much european public opinion is hostile to Turkish membership. For many Turks however, only good can come of getting closer to Europe, although in an Istanbul cafe one man feared the advantages would not be for him; “Maybe in 50 years, maybe in 100 they will take us into europe; my son, maybe my grandson will see it, so what could it mean to me? If I could see the entrance then that would make sense”, he told reporters. No officials are talking about such a time frame, but maybe ordinary people know something they do not.