(Reuters) – Turkey has been trying for years to join the European Union, presenting itself as a growing economic and political power and a bridge to Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

But the next country to join the EU’s existing 28 members is more likely to be one of six small Balkan countries, five of which still formed part of Yugoslavia when Turkey made its first membership bid.

Several powerful EU states are reluctant to open the door to a large, mainly Muslim country, even a member of the NATO Western military alliance, fearing a troublesome integration whereas small countries have a track record of smooth accession.

While the EU focuses its attention elsewhere, the Turkish government and public are increasingly despondent and have started to wonder whether it really needs Europe after all.

“I guess that nobody wants to say that we are not going to continue with the accession process, neither the EU nor Turkey,” said Turkey’s ambassador to the EU, Selim Yenel, speaking at a Brussels think-tank in September.

“But there will be one day in which we will have to decide on what to do about it, because this is going nowhere.”

Joining the EU can bring the benefits of easy access to the world’s largest trading bloc, free movement of workers, funding for poorer regions and infrastructure and the chance to belong to a relatively stable political union. see more