So-called 'Norway status' (see 'Background') appears to be a formula which Turkey is officially putting on the table, it emerged after a two-hour Q&A session between Bağış and the Brussels press.
Bağış, who is a leading politician from Turkey's AKP party, repeatedly referred to Norway, which had completed accession negotiations but twice decided not to join the Union following referenda lost by narrow margins in 1972 and 1994.
Turkey an asset, not a burden
Bağış gave assurances that Turkey was such a strong asset to the EU that he was more doubtful of the result of the Turkish referendum than he was about those in EU countries seen today as Turkey-sceptic.
"We have a very solid example in front of us. A country that I follow very closely – Norway. They conducted their negotiations, they completed their reforms, and they chose not to become a member."
"The day we complete our negotiations, we will not be today's Turkey, just as today's Turkey is not the country from 51 years ago when we first applied. And I don't know what the Turkish nation will decide. And I don't know what the populations of some of the member states will decide."
"Maybe like in the case of the UK we will be vetoed, but again like the UK we will go through with determination and become a member […] Or like Norway, we will not become a member, but we will be closely linked to the EU," the Turkish negotiator said.
Asked by EurActiv if Turkey would accept a situation in which, for example, the French were to say 'no' to Turkey's accession in a referendum, Bağış replied: "Of course, why not? Because we make decisions based on the consequences. French people would calculate France's interest, when they go to the ballot box, and our people would calculate our interest, or self-interest."
"But I believe that by the time we have completed the negotiations, the approach of French people will not be similar to the approach of French people today. I strongly believe that by the time we complete the negotiations, the European Union member states would try to lobby to make sure that Turks vote to become members of the EU," he added.
The Turkish official strongly argued that Turkey had a lot to offer to the EU and would in fact relieve the Union of some of its burdens, instead of bringing additional ones. In particular, he mentioned the demographic factor, but also the economy.
"In the first quarter of 2010 the Turkish economy grew by 11.8%. In the second quarter we grew by 10.8%. According to OECD calculations, we will continue to be one of the three fastest-growing economies of the world until 2017. Per capita income in Turkey has tripled for the last eight years. There is no other success story on the continent like it," Bağış said.
"I'm confident in the growth of my country, I'm confident in the democratisation and economic prosperity of my country. To be honest, I don't have so much confidence in your economic prospects," he added wittily.
'Open the chapters first'
Asked if the 'Norway-type' formula was similar to ideas developed by leading MEP Elmar Brok in a recent EurActiv interview, Bağış said: "Today is not the time to decide on that. So Elmar should wait for us to complete the negotiations. And in order to complete the negotiations, we have to open the chapters of the negotiations. If you don't open the chapters, you don't close the chapters."
The Turkish negotiator then hinted that a crucial test would be whether or not the EU decides to open the blocked energy chapter.
"If I cannot open the energy chapter, I'm not really motivated to solve your energy problems," he said.
Asked by EurActiv if this meant that there would be no Nabucco in such circumstances, he answered: "I didn't say that. If I can open the energy chapter, this gives me motivation to find solutions to solve your energy problems. If I don't have the possibility to open the energy chapter, I still do Nabucco, as long as it is in line with my national interest. We have to decide: are we partners or not? […] People are asking me: why are you going to allocate state funds and land for an energy project, when Europe is ignoring you on your energy chapter?"
70% of the energy resources Europe needs are either to the north, to the south or to the east of Turkey, Bağış argued.
"And no matter which energy project you and I might prefer, we need Turkey to cooperate," he said.
Onus on Cyprus
Asked who in fact was blocking the chapters, Bağış was quick to point the finger at Cyprus, which he called "Southern Cyprus", as Turkey does not recognise this EU member. But he argued that the positions of Cyprus were against the interests of its people.
"If I were a Cypriot, I would vote for Turkey's membership of the EU more than Turkey's chief negotiator," Bağış said. "Put yourself in the shoes of a Cypriot. A country of 600.000, looking up at a country of 70 million, with the largest military in Europe, the sixth largest economy of Europe, the third largest, fastest-growing economy in the world," he said.
Asked why Ankara was not complying with the Ankara Protocol and was not allowing vessels and planes from Cyprus into Turkish ports and airports, he said: "We can open our ports tomorrow. If the European Council decision of April 2004 was implemented, if Spanish, Dutch, German and French planes land at Ercan airport [in Northern Cyprus], if other European ships unload containers in Northern Cyprus, then Greek Cypriot planes and vessels are welcome to come."
Bağış then argued that the Council decision taken on the eve of the 2004 enlargement was being implemented "only by Southern Cyprus". "This is hypocrisy," he fumed.
Asked when would Turkey recognise Cyprus, an EU member state, and call it by its name, Bağış said today's Cyprus consisted of two "fully-functioning democracies".
"We have to know what we are uniting. The world may have ignored that there are two different states on the island. Just because 15 [EU] member states made a wrong decision and admitted Southern Cyprus as the Cyprus Republic doesn't mean it was the right decision," he said.