Turkey may not be a member of the European Union but it is part of Europe’s past and present, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday at a Friends of Europe Policy Spotlight debate, ahead of meeting with new European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

“If Turkey had been a member of the EU, the European Union would have been much stronger to affect developments, and European identity would have been more inclusive,” he said. “Turkey is an asset for the EU. And the EU is a strategic objective for Turkey.”

Europe had not benefited as much as it could have from Turkey’s past decade of strong economic growth, Davutoglu said. Moreover, an EU containing Turkey would have had more power to influence recent events in the Middle East and North Africa.

In a wide-ranging address, the Turkish premier also spoke about the need to protect Muslims living in EU member states. On Sunday he took part in the march in Paris in honour of the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks. “I want to see the same solidarity when a mosque is burned in the centre of Berlin,” he said. “In the last two years, 94 mosques have been attacked in Germany.”

He called on Europeans to accept Muslims as part of their society, pointing out that many come from countries colonised by European countries in the 19th century. “There are 45 mn Muslims living in Europe and more than six mn Turks,” he said. “The challenge is to make the European identity an inclusive identity.”

Ahmet Davutoglu has been the Prime Minister of Turkey and leader of the Justice and Development Party since August 2014. He previously served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for five years, seeking to expand Turkish influence in regional affairs and on the international stage. Davutoglu has made Turkey’s accession to the European Union a strategic target and pledged constitutional reform and to fight corruption.

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