BY RAY FLEMING Queen Elizabeth's State Visit to Turkey has attracted surprisingly little attention in Britain even though it is one of her most significant overseas visits for some time. The announcement that it would take place was not made until March and there has been little of the usual advance publicity. Yet, since the Queen now undertakes only one overseas visit a year, the choice of Turkey underlines the importance of the Anglo-Turkish link.

In her speech on Wednesday the Queen referred to Turkey as a “bridge between East and West”. That is not a new thought but it is a valid one. Turkey, a secular but mainly Muslim state, wants to join the European Union and is strongly supported by Britain; however, France and Germany are opposed to its full membership and as a result the enthusiasm in Turkey for its accession has diminished somewhat. Doubts about the appropriateness of Turkish membership of the EU stem from concerns that Muslim influence is in the ascendancy in the country, that some undemocratic laws and practices remain on the statute book and that the role of the army is unclear. On the other hand, Turkey has been a loyal member of Nato for many years, enjoys a vibrant economy and in recent years has removed some of its more restrictive legislation on human rights and freedom of speech.

Queen Elizabeth's visit should reassure the government and people of Turkey that Britain remains committed to their ambition to become a member of the European Union.