Italian President Giorgio Napolitano delivered a conference at university in Ankara on Wednesday about relations between Turkey and Europe as part of his formal visit to the Turkish capital. "It is ill-suited to accept in advance that the European Union should offer Turkey a status short of full membership by drawing on a presumption that Ankara's membership talks would not end with Turkey's accession to the Union," Napolitano told students at Ankara University's Faculty of Language, History & Geography.

Napolitano said his visit to Ankara had come at a time when European integration process had taken a critical turn in its history as the Lisbon Treaty was expected to came into effect soon.

"There are new opportunities ahead for Europe to strengthen its union and to have a say in global matters. And as a fierce defender of the European integration, I think that problems of the Turkish-European relations should be considered within that perspective," Napolitano said.

"What I mean by Europe is not a continent, a specific part of the globe or a union of a specific race. What I mean by Europe is an undisputable and an undeniable union of history which is made up of differences," Napolitano said.

"The borders of Europe are the borders of the European civilization. And the borders of the European civilization are not fixed," he said.
Napolitano recalled that the 19th Century had seen the Ottoman Empire getting closer to Europe with a series of modernization efforts which had been followed by similar reforms during the young Turkish Republic.

"Those who engage in polemics with the long history of the Ottoman Empire should not forget that the empire had begun Europeanization in the 19th Century," Napolitano said.

"Turkey's role in this vast and critical geography is one of the basic elements of the mutual interest in the improvement of the cooperation between Turkey and Union with an eye for integration. And Turkey's relation with the Islam and the Muslim world is another basic element which is deeply involved today in many European countries," the Italian president said.