Turkey's membership in the EU

I am very much in favour of giving Turkey a European perspective. This is due to the strategic and economic importance of the country just at our doorstep. Also, the Turkish membership would be of immense symbolic significance as an attempt to close the gap between the Christian and the Muslim worlds, the poor and the rich, democratic and non democratic traditions. By letting Turkey join the EU we ensure democracy is anchored to the benefit of all citizens. We also give every Turk the hope of a brighter future. The example of Turkey can inspire the rest of the Muslim world to peaceful co-existence with the West. Turkey's membership is thus all about world peace.

I understand very well the arguments of those who are against the membership, but I don't agree. Let me comment on a few misconceptions.

1) Turkey is not European.
- This is the point: by stretching out to this different world we can help create mutual understanding. Turkey has been a responsible member of NATO for a very long time, so it could also be it in the EU.

2) Turkey would dilute the EU and make political union impossible.
- We are already now so numerous in the EU that emphasis must in any case be on subsidiarity i.e. making only those decisions at the EU level which cannot be efficiently taken at the member state level. The troubles which have hit the draft EU constitution clearly demonstrate that the idea of ever deeper union for every member and at the same pace has reached its limits. We need such flexibility that both Luxembourg's euro-enthusiasts as well as British euro-sceptics can feel at home. If this idea prevails, Turkey would certainly find a suitable role.

3) Turkey would swamp the EU with immigrants.

- This need not be so; it is up to us to decide if we want to prevent this. Firstly, we can have lengthy transition periods during which immigration would be restricted. Secondly, by helping Turkey develop its economy, we can augment the opportunities in the country and thus reduce the wish of the Turks to emigrate. And thirdly, I would personally welcome more immigration to the EU as long as it happens in an orderly way. Our aging continent needs more young and hard-working people, not less. We should not be afraid of Turks taking the jobs from local workers - if we reform our economies we can reduce unemployment. If we say no to reforms and economic dynamism, we say yes to high unemployment - with or without Turkish membership.

4) Turkey would grab too much money from regional aid funds and the common agriculture policy (CAP).

- Certainly Turkey would be a major beneficiary of these funds under the current rules. However, I am personally opposed to the current policies which in my view lead to enormous waste of taxpayer money. I favour nationalizing the financing of agricultural policy and just letting Brussels make sure that governments don't compete against each other in an unfair manner. As to the regional policy, I'm against pouring money to relatively rich regions. Therefore I would favour letting regional policy become a national matter except for the very poorest regions. In my eyes, the developing countries need our aid more than our regions.

5) Through its size Turkey would dominate decision-making.
- This is not true. Turkey would be about the size of Germany in a union (by then) much bigger than the EU of today. If I as a Finn from a small country have now qualms about the role played by Germany, I certainly would not fear Turkey either. The EU is about cooperation, not about divisive power games. We have rules, which protect small countries from the domination large ones and rules, which safeguard the position of large countries from the domination of several small countries. Important: In the European Parliament Turkey will not act as a national team. Like all other countries some of them will join the centre-right, some the socialists etc.

6) Turkey is not democratic, does not support our values and mistreats its minorities.

- That's precisely why Turkey should join the EU! The membership negotiations are designed to entice countries to comply with the rules and values of the EU. Therefore, Turkey would not enter the EU before it has genuinely reformed its policies and mind-set. I would very much like the country to stop pretending the Armenian genocide never took place. But nevertheless, we can already now see how positive an impact the possible membership has had in Turkey: a huge number of profound reforms have been seen through. This would have been unthinkable only five years ago.

All in all I am for letting Turkey become a member of our community. The advantages clearly outweigh the disadvantages. And anyway, the membership would not happen for several years, so why make a huge fuss about it now, which smacks of populism?
Certainly, the whole world cannot join the EU. I'm not in favour of Iraq entering our club. But the symbolic step of letting Muslim Turkey become an equal partner with us cannot be overestimated. Let's thus see further than the next elections and think about the future we leave to our children. Peace and harmony must be the overarching objectives.