Visiting Turk MPs 'surprised' at hostility to EU bid

13th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 13 (AFP) - Turkish members of parliament visiting France this week to seek support for their country's membership of the European Union have expressed surprise at the amount of opposition they have met with.

PARIS, Oct 13 (AFP) - Turkish members of parliament visiting France this week to seek support for their country's membership of the European Union have expressed surprise at the amount of opposition they have met with.  

Turkey received a boost to its hopes of membership last week when the EU Commission in Brussels recommended a start to negotiations.  

But scepticism about Turkey joining the EU is widespread in some quarters of the EU, not least in France.  

"We are surprised at the debate going on in France," said Onur Oymen, a parliamentary deputy of the centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP):  

"You'd think we were still talking about whether Turkey should join the EU, but that was settled more than 40 years ago in 1963 with our Association agreement (with the then European Economic Community), then in 1999 when Turkey acquired the status of a candidate for membership."  

"Some French politicians are asking whether our civilisations are compatible, whether Turkey belongs to the European continent, but we haven't changed our religion, our size or our geographical position," he added.  

The EU has had misgivings about Turkey's human rights record, and critics also resist the idea of a large country with a predominantly Muslim population becoming part of the EU.  

The French National Assembly was set Thursday to debate Turkish membership, without holding a vote.  

Latest French opinion polls show clear hostility to Turkish EU membership, although politicians of all shades are divided.  

President Jacques Chirac is in favour of Turkish membership while his ruling party, the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP,) and most government ministers are against.  

The Turkish visitors said Chirac's proposal of a French referendum on Turkish EU membership was discriminatory because it had not been applied for the admission in May of 10 new members.  

The deputies also insisted on their country' preparedness for membership.  

"Turkey today is better prepared than several other countries recently admitted to the EU, especially in the fields of economy, banking and finances," said Ibrahim Ozal, a deputy of the ruling Party of Justice and Development (AKP).  

"We have a lot to offer," said Oymen, stressing his country had a comparatively young population "indispensable because of the aging of Europe."  

Addressing fears of Islam among the French, who already have a large immigrant Muslim minority, Turkey's ambassador to France Uluc Ozulker stressed his country would be accepting an existing system of values if it joined the EU.  

"European legislation will be applied with the same standards everywhere, so the fact that the (Turkish government party) AKP is Islam-inspired is not a problem," he said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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