Lisbeth Kirk, euobserver.com, Dec. 13
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned European Union leaders that violence from Islamic extremists could escalate if the EU rejects Turkey as a member.
Speaking before the opening of Istanbul’s first modern art museum Mr Erdogan said, according to the Times: “There is nothing we can do if the EU feels that it can live with being simply a Christian club … but if these countries burn their bridges with the rest of the world, history will not forgive them”.
Turkey signed the association agreement for EU membership in 1963 and it is expected that a two-day EU summit this week will finally decide to begin formal membership talks, probably in the second half of next year.
“No other country had to wait for 41 years at Europe’s door. We have fulfilled all the criteria, but despite this Europeans are hesitating”, the Turkish leader said in Ankara.
Taking Turkey’s 69 million, mainly Muslim, population into the Union is widely disputed.
France, Austria and Denmark are insisting that membership is not guaranteed. The French president, in addition, has promised to consult the French in a referendum on the issue.
In Germany, leader of the Christian Social Union Edmund Stoiber told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that his party in government would do what it takes to prevent Turkey from becoming a full member of the EU.
There is also opposition in other countries. A majority of Danes would much rather see Ukraine as an EU member than Turkey.
According to a Gallup survey published in Danish daily Berlingske Tidende, 49 percent of Danes are opposed to Turkish membership with 35 percent in favour. While Ukrainian membership would be welcomed by 44 percent with 32 percent against.
No special conditions
The French have been supporting the idea of privileged partnership for Turkey as an alternative to full membership, but the Turks flatly turn this down.
“There is no such thing in the EU as privileged partnership. No other country has been offered this and there is no way that we will accept such an option for Turkey”, said Mr Erdogan according to the Times.
Suggestions of permanent limitations of the free movement of Turkish workers are also not acceptable to the Turkish leader.
“There can be some temporary limitations [on workers] but having permanent limitations is against [EU law]”, Mr Erdogan said according to the Independent.
Cyprus dispute central to talks
Negotiations could also derail over the Cyprus issue.
Turkey has rejected a request from the European Commission to recognise Cyprus ahead of this week’s decision on Turkey’s EU application. The Greek Cypriots, for their part, have threatened to veto Turkish EU membership.
The Turks claim Greek Cypriots do not deserve recognition after they rejected a United Nations plan for the unification of Cyprus, which Turkish Cypriots supported.
If the summit gives the green light to start negotiations, Turkey is still not likely to get into the EU this side 2014.
The draft conclusions for the summit clearly states that accession of countries having “substantial financial consequences” [Turkey] can only be concluded after the Financial Framework for the period from 2014 is concluded.
(Posted on December 14, 2004)
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