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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey

21st January 2013

Turkey and the EU: Impressions from Eastern Anatolia

A guest blog by Peter Spoor, Head Press and Projects Team at the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey

Picture4My first impression on exiting the airport departure lounge is intense cold. I’m in Erzurum, where winter temperatures can drop below minus 25 degrees. I’m in town with colleagues from the Turkish EU Ministry to make the case for Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

Aside from the temperatures, other impressions are of world class winter sports facilities, the usual wonderful Turkish hospitality and fantastic cuisine. I’d recommend the local speciality, cağ kebap. With a 25-minute transit from the departure lounge to world class ski slopes, a tourism boom is surely round the corner.

Our projects  in Erzurum – a seminar for lawyers to raise awareness about the EU – drew a packed audience. I detected a huge appetite for more information. But inevitably there was also a sense of frustration: Turkey first applied to join the then European Community in 1987, but EU leaders only agreed to open accession negotiations in 2004. Since then, Turks perceive the process to have been grindingly slow and some polls suggest the public is beginning to lose interest.

The UK detects more grounds for optimism in 2013. Under the Irish Presidency, our aim is to ensure that Turkey’s accession negotiations gain momentum in the first half of this year.  My trip to promote the case for Turkey’s membership outside the capital and Istanbul gave me a reminder of just how important this cause is.

Turkey stands to benefit enormously from adopting the political and economic norms which have helped to make the EU the world’s most successful trading bloc. The EU, in turn, needs an injection of Turkish dynamism and influence across the Middle East and beyond.

1 comment on “Turkey and the EU: Impressions from Eastern Anatolia

  1. Having completed a three year Posting in Istanbul [1998 – 2001] and the birth of our second son at the Florence Nightingale Hospital in 2000, my wife and I have great affection for Turkey and in particular Istanbul. We lived near to the second bridge and so had the opportunity to visit the Asian side as well live on the European side. The people were friendly, the food was delicious and the climate was extremely comfortable. In fact I was in Istanbul last June and was amazed to see how much construction had taken place since we left in 2001 and how far the Metro had extended. Although, the traffic congestion remains a problem, at least you feel safe to walk. Something which I miss here in Nairobi.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.