Lords discuss role of Turkey in Europe and the Middle East

14 January 2011

Lord Sharkey made is maiden speech in the House of Lords on Thursday 13 January in a debate on the economic and strategic role of Turkey in Europe and the Middle East

Former joint managing director of Saatchi & Saatchi, Lord Sharkey had special responsibility for the Turkish government's preparation of its case for entry into the European Union

Lord Sharkey said that in the 45 years since his first visit to Turkey he has seen profound change, although some things had remained constant: ‘I remember vividly how struck I was by the graceful and unforced hospitality of a traditional Islamic culture. I am struck now that this tradition survives such major political, social and economic changes.’

Others would be better qualified to talk in detail about the economic importance of Turkey to the EU and the region, Lord Sharkey said, but there were a number of points he wished to outline. ‘By 2007 the EU accounted for 56 per cent of Turkey’s exports and for 41 per cent of its imports. Turkey ranks seventh in the EU’s top import markets and fifth in its top export markets. But perhaps one of the most striking ways of illustrating Turkey’s strategic and economic importance in the EU and in the region is to look at modern Istanbul, European Capital of Culture for 2010. A research paper published in December by the Brookings Institution, the LSE and Deutsche Bank looked at the economic fortunes of the world’s top 150 global metropolitan economies. The study shows Istanbul to have beaten Beijing and Shanghai to claim the title of “most dynamic metro city”,’ he said.

Lord Sharkey said the strategic role of Turkey in Europe and in the region ‘was evident from economic, political and military perspectives for most of the past 2,000 years’ and was recognised by modern Europeans in modem times, too. ‘Istanbul and Anatolia are the fulcrum on which the interests of the established West and the emerging Near East are finely balanced. One has only to think about Turkey’s geographical position, its membership of NATO, its neighbours in every direction, its function as a conduit for the oil, gas and goods from the East, its economic strength and resilience, the youth of its population and its energy and cultural creativity to realise how strategically critical Turkey is to the EU and to the region,’ he said. ‘We must reflect also on the merits of having a Muslim nation, secular and democratic in government, as a good, willing and valued neighbour. All this, or most of it anyway, became true and important in 1453. It remains true and important in 2011. I truly believe that Turkey’s economic and strategic role is important to us and that it deserves the most careful consideration.’

Baroness Hussein-Ece (Liberal Democrat) opened the debate. Other Members of the Lords who contributed to the debate included:

  • Lord Hannay of Chiswick (Crossbench), former permanent representative to the United Nations and for Cyprus
  • Lord Anderson of Swansea (Labour), a former diplomat and MP
  • Lord Chidgey (Liberal Democrat), chair of the Liberal Democrat policy committee on International Affairs
  • Lord Giddens (Labour), a member of the Independent Commission on Turkey
  • Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (Liberal Democrat), a former member of the European Parliament and vice-chair of its Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Lord Selsdon (Conservative), former member of the East European Trade Council
  • Lord Trimble (Conservative), currently an observer to the Israeli special independent public inquiry into the Gaza flotilla raid

Lord Sheikh, Baroness Scott of Needham Market and Lord Clement-Jones also participated in the debate. Lord Howell of Guildford responded on behalf of the government.

Further information

The term ‘maiden speech’ refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech normally takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.

Image: Parliamentary copyright

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, House of Lords news, Members of the Lords, Lords news, Parliamentary business, Economy and finance, European Union, International affairs

Share this page