The European Union is missing an opportunity in not facilitating Turkey’s membership of the EU, according to Rizanur Meral, President of TUSKON, the Confederation of Turkish Businessmen and Industrialists. He was speaking at a fringe meeting of the Congress of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) in Dublin this lunchtime and stressed the demographic benefit of Turkish membership for an ageing Europe. Moreover, the Turkish economy is growing: over 8% per annum in 2010 and 2011, and although this is likely to fall back to 3.5% this year that is considerably better than in the current EU member states. Over the past 10 years, per capita income in Turkey has trebled, which means that it is no longer such a poor neighbour either, and it is still seen as something of a model by other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Mr Meral argued. Somewhat less optimistic was the view put forward by Andrew Duff, LibDem MEP for the East of England and a longstanding member of the European Parliament’s committee relating to Turkey. Andrew bemoaned the fact that the political reform process in Turkey seems to have slowed and declared that probably what was needed was a completely new constitution. ‘Citizens in Turkey are still treated as if it is their job to serve the State,’ he said, ‘whereas in Europe since the Second World War that assumption has been turned on its head.’ Andrew also proposed that Turkey should be offered a form of associate membership of the EU, as there is no chance in the foreseeable future of full membership, despite Ankara’s application being on the table for so long. When he raised this prospect at a fringe meeting at the LibDems’ autumn conference in Brighton recently, Andrew received a giant metaphorical raspberry from the Turkish Ambassador to the UK, and he appeared to have little support in the room today for the proposition either. Nonetheless, one would be blind to ignore the problems. One chink of hope is that the Irish presidency, which will start on 1 January 2013, has indicated it is willing to open new chapters in the accession negotiations with Turkey — though whether countries such as France, Germany and Austria would agree is another matter.