Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis has blamed the Christian Democrats (EPP), the largest political group in the EU, for breaking its promise to upgrade Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's observer status to full membership. The AK Party has left the EPP and joined the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR) following a long period as an “observer” within the EPP. Receiving Swedish Ambassador Lars Wahlund in Ankara on Monday, Bagis told the press that the EPP did not even ask member parties for their approval to grant the AK Party full membership. Bagis said the EPP blamed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's German Christian Democratic Union Party and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union Party. "The AK Party preferred to join the AECR which respects us, leaving the EPP that did not allow us to take part in their decision mechanism," Bagis said. The AECR is a center-right, Euroskeptic European political party. Founded in 2009 and recognized by the European Parliament in 2010, the party has 13 member parties in 10 countries and is represented by 56 MEPs in the European Parliament. Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron's party is a member of the AECR. Meanwhile Swedish Ambassador Lars Wahlund expressed support for Turkey's EU accession bid. "We are very happy, we have opened Chapter 22 on regional polices in Turkey's EU negotiations. We hope that we can open chapters 23 and 24," he said, referring to the chapters on "judiciary and fundamental rights" and "justice, freedom and security," respectively. He also expressed optimism over visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to European countries by saying, "We are hopeful that we can open up visa liberalization."
Wahlund said achieving progress in Cyprus talks will boost the Turkish-EU accession process. The island has been divided into Greek and Turkish sides since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish peace mission to aid Turkish Cypriots in the north in 1974. He also called on Turkish business people to invest in Sweden by saying that the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a delegation of 200 business people on November 7 will boost economic ties.