Portuguese PM says it is time the EU opened its arms to Turkey

In a week where he has been accused of plotting to bring the downfall of the Greek government, Portugal’s prime minister has extended a clear hand of friendship to Turkey – the Mediterranean country marking the boundary with the Middle East that applied for EU membership almost 20 years ago.

The fact that Turkey could be considered a gateway to IS-controlled Syria does not appear to have troubled Pedro Passos Coelho.

“Turkey must no longer be a country that has a symbolic say in the EU family photos,” he said in a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu at the Foreign Ministry Office in the Portuguese capital Lisbon. It should “assume a position in our family”.

A delighted Davutoğlu said: “This is the strong and clear voice Turkey needs in the EU.”

Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.

According to Turkey’s Anadolu press agency, “to gain membership, Turkey must successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters, which involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.

“So far, 14 chapters have been opened, while 17 remain blocked and another four have yet to be discussed.

Turkey’s PM used the official visit to announce that Turkish Airlines would “fly to Lisbon twice a day and that there would be flights to Porto seven days of the week”.

He neglected to give a time-frame for these developments before flying off to the US where he was expected to meet with UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon “to talk over recent regional and international developments ranging from the Cyprus issue, the Syrian civil war, Iraq, ISIS threat and the Ukraine crisis”.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]