Turkey eager to get ‘married’ to Europe
Turkey is ready to get "married" to the European Union, one of the country's top politicians said, after the 28-nation bloc decided to re-open membership talks with Turkey after a three-year stalemate.
The latest round of negotiations marks a significant step in Turkey's movement towards accession. The process has been a very long one, fraught with difficulties since talks started in 2005 -- 18 years after the country initially applied for membership.
Talks on the next stage, or "chapter" as they are called, started Tuesday at the Accession Conference in Brussels, setting out targets Turkey has to meet in areas such as job creation and quality of life, before any progress can be made on bringing the country into the 28-country economic and political union.
Thirty-five chapters need to be concluded before Turkey can become an EU member, but so far only one has been finished. European and Turkish politicians have hailed it as a giant step however.
(Read more: When will Turkey join the European Union?)
"This is really a turning point in Turkish- EU relations…it is symbolically very important," Egemen Bağış, Turkish minister for EU affairs and chief negotiator, said at a press conference.
"We are not only ready to get engaged (to the EU) but get married."
The EU is Turkey's biggest trading partner and around 71 percent of foreign direct investment in the country comes from the EU. Membership is expected to bring freer movement of goods and increase the money Turkey received through bilateral trade which stood at 123 billion euros in 2012.
The decision to reopen negotiations with Turkey followed a relatively positive European Commission report in October on the progress of the country. The assessment stated that Turkey had taken a number of "important steps" to adopt a judicial reform package and push forward a peace process with Kurdish insurgents
But Turkish accession talks have been dogged by a number of political problems. Tensions with Cyprus have been a major factor in the slow progress of the talks. The Republic of Cyprus – the island's internationally recognized Greek area – is blocking eight chapters in Turkey's accession talks because of Turkey's refusal to open its sea and air ports to traffic from Cyprus.
Turkey accused the EU of not ending the international isolation of Turkish Cypriots and did not open its ports.
Germany and France gave the green lights for talks to go ahead earlier this year after previously blocking negotiations in protest over of prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan's brutal crackdown of the Gezi Park protest.
But European lawmakers have sought to present a unified relationship between Brussels and Ankara seeing membership as the best way to bring key reforms to Turkey.
"Let me underline that Turkey is and remains an important partner for the European Union and the developments in Turkey underline the importance of continuing EU engagement and the EU remaining the benchmark of reform in turkey," Štefan Füle, commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, said at a news conference.
Analysts are sceptical about the negotiations ever being successful.
James Ker-Lindsay, senior research fellow at the London School of Economics told CNBC that the deal is "unlikely" to happen.
"The thing is, both sides are committed to this relationship and I don't think either side quite knows how to get out of it."
—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal