Turkey stands firm on EU conditions

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will not agree to new conditions for European Union membership.

    The Turkish prime minister says he is used to honest politics

    Turkey is scheduled to start membership negotiations with the bloc on 3 October. But opposition to the country's membership is growing in Europe, and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said this week that the bloc should have an open debate on Turkey's candidacy.

    Erdogan rejected any talk of changing the conditions for Turkey's effort, telling reporters late on Saturday: "Turkey is not in the situation of renegotiating anything.

    "If you impose new things on countries from one day to the next, especially at a time when negotiations are about to start, that would not be right, that would not be proper," he said.

    "We're used to honest politics; that's what we expect and want."

    Negative voting

    Many European voters balk at letting in the poor, predominantly Muslim country of 70 million people, a move that would extend the EU's borders to Syria and Iran.

    France and the Netherlands said
    'no' to the EU constitution

    Such concerns were highlighted by the recent rejection of the EU's proposed constitution by French and Dutch voters, many of whom said they cast ballots against the charter because they were opposed to Turkey joining.
     
    Erdogan praised British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who this week urged the EU to continue expanding. Blair warned that shutting the door to new members would give rise to nationalism and xenophobia in Europe.

    "In politics, I like those who have a backbone ... I don't like the rest," Erdogan said.

    Before Turkey can start negotiations, it must sign and implement a protocol expanding Ankara's EU customs agreement to include Cyprus and nine other countries that joined the EU last year, and implement penal-code reforms.

    Many say Turkey's entry talks may last a decade or more.

    SOURCE: AFP


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