Giscard warns against E.U. membership for Turkey

BRUSSELS NOV. 9. Turkey's bid to join the European Union has received a setback with the former French President, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who heads the European Union's Constitutional Convention, speaking out against admitting the country as a member.

Mr d'Estaing triggered a controversy by stating in an interview on Friday that Turkey was not a European nation and that "it would be the end of the European Union'' if that country was allowed to join the organisation. Mr d'Estaing alluded to Turkey's Muslim population with a high birth rate and added the country had a "different culture, a different approach, a different way of life. Its capital is not in Europe, 95 percent of Turkey's population live outside Europe. It is not a European country''.

Mr d'Estaing also warned that if Turkey was admitted, other West Asian and North African Arab states would demand membership. "In my opinion, it would be the end of the European Union.''

E.U. officials have so far remained tight-lipped about Turkey's prospects of joining the organisation, especially after the victory of the Islamist party in the recent elections. Mr d'Estaing's comments come at a sensitive moment in Euro-Turkish relations as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, winner of Sunday's elections, is about to embark on a tour of major European capitals to drum up support for his country's membership.

Mr Erdogan on Friday described Mr d'Estaing's comments as "emotional''. The Turkish Government rejected Mr Giscard's "negative position'' and stated that the country had been a part of Europe since the 10th century.

Mr. d'Estaing stated in Le Monde, the prestigious French newspaper, that those who were pushing for Turkey's membership were "adversaries of the European Union.'' So far, Britain and the U.S. have overtly championed Ankara's cause, but the initiative has evoked little enthusiasm in other E.U. circles. The crisis is now compounded with the emergence of the Islamist party in the Turkish Parliament and there is almost a negative feeling all round. Mr Erdogan is considered a "suspect politician'' by the Turkish military, which regards itself as the custodian of the country's secular and European-oriented Kamalist heritage.

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