EU gives warm welcome to Gül’s election

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European leaders across the political spectrum have hailed the election of Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül as president. EU hopes are high that the vote will put an end to the Turkish political crisis over the country’s secular values and boost its EU membership bid.

On the eve of the Turkish presidential elections, French President Nicolas Sarkozy softened his stance on Turkey's accession process, saying that he would not block further negotiations. However, he did not hide the fact that he prefers an association with the country, instead of full membership for Turkey (EURACTIV 28/08/07).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated the newly elected Gül. She underlined the importance of the partnership between Germany and Turkey and said: "I am certain that you will dedicate yourself in your new office to deepening our relations, for the good of Europe and the Atlantic Alliance."

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Gül's election would give "fresh, immediate and positive impetus" to the accession talks and expects "progress in a number of key areas".

EU High Representative for the CFSPJavier Solana, stated that he was confident that Gül will "contribute to broadening the reform process in Turkey and to strengthening regional stability". He added: " The EU will continue to support you in these efforts."

Dutch MEP and member of the EPP-ED groupRia Oomen-Ruijten, congratulated Gül: "Obviously, President Gül will play a constructive role in Turkey's reform process, which faces fresh challenges."

The European Parliament's Socialist group welcomed the vote and said it considered that Gül's election would reinforce Turkey's European outlook. Hannes Swoboda and Jan Marinus Wiersma stated that they expect Gül to contribute positively to the continuation of the reform process, the reinforcement of democracy and the country's European process.

Liberal MEP Andrew Duff stated that Gül's election was "richly deserved in personal terms and profoundly democratic". He added: "His record as foreign minister shows he is fully committed to Turkey's eventual membership of the EU, to human rights and the rule of law." He urged the armed forces to give "full support" to the newly elected president.

Green MEP Joost Lagendijk stated: "Abdullah Gül is respected in the European Union as an extraordinarily competent Minister for Foreign Affairs, representing the face of the reforms to which the AKP committed itself in 2003 and 2004, as well Turkey's accession negotiations. As president he can continue to be an excellent ambassador for the Turkish pursuit of EU membership."

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President, René van der Linden, congratulated Gül. He said: "I hope that his presidency will lead to the further integration of Turkey in Europe and I count on him not only to abide by Council of Europe standards, but also to spread the European spirit in Turkey."

The Turkish EU accession negotiations had seen a major setback in December 2006, when EU member states decided to partially suspend the negotiations following Turkey's refusal to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus, bringing negotiations to a halt in eight of 35 chapters.

Moreover, the elections of two EU leaders who are highly critical of Turkey's full EU membership, France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has not helped speed up the process. In June, France blocked the opening of further negotiations on economic and monetary issues (EURACTIV 26/06/07).

However, Turkish EU membership talks could take a positive turn with the newly-elected government and president in place. EU leaders hope for a fresh start and an accelerated pace of reforms.

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