EU ‘incomplete’ without Turkey

The European Union would be “incomplete” without Turkey and western Balkan countries such as Croatia and Macedonia, Geoff Hoon said last night.

The minister for Europe said the EU currently faced a choice – whether to evolve and become “more relevant and more effective”, or “lock the doors” against change.

Mr Hoon said politicians should worry about people’s “sense of disillusionment” about the union and act to make it more effective as a single market and as a global player, and ensure it interacted better with its citizens.

“I hope we can build this kind of EU well before its 100th anniversary. It will be a stronger EU – an EU that is more popular, relevant, prosperous and effective,” he said.

But he stressed new member states would only be admitted if they conformed to European Union standards, and said there was “nothing for our respective peoples to fear”.

“Personally, I believe that the EU will be incomplete without Turkey and the Western Balkans as members,” Mr Hoon said.

“Not just because of their historical connections to Europe, but because of the importance of embracing those who share the values of Europe and European democracy.”

His speech at the British embassy in Paris was the latest in a series of positive statements about the European Union by government ministers.

Earlier this week, economic secretary to the Treasury Ed Balls said the EU was the only way to effectively deal with climate change, and he condemned David Cameron for being the most “anti-European” leader the Conservatives had ever had.

However, shadow Europe minister Graham Brady said last night that the government was offering only “pathetic vacillation” on the future of Europe.

“Labour has nothing to say about tackling the massive burden of EU regulation and they can’t even tell the British people if they are prepared to give up control of our ports and police to EU decision making,” he said.

Mr Brady also noted the ongoing row between Mr Hoon and foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, which was made public in a Commons debate on Tuesday, when she insisted on taking all the questions about Europe.

“Geoff Hoon is desperate to get back in the game following the crushing snub earlier in the week from the foreign secretary, who wouldn’t even let him answer questions on his own brief,” he said.