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Europe

Kouchner turns against Turkey's EU entry

Latest update : 2009-04-07

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has changed his mind about Turkey's entry in the European Union because of Turkish refusal to accept the appointment of Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary general.

AFP - France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday he had turned against the idea of allowing Turkey to join the European Union because of Ankara's behaviour at last week's NATO summit.

"Turkey's evolution in, let's say, a more religious direction, towards a less robust secularism, worries me," he told RTL radio.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has long been opposed to Turkey's EU bid and that has been official French policy, but his foreign minister had been more open to the idea, at least until Saturday's talks in Strasbourg.

Kouchner said he had been surprised when Turkey's delegation to the NATO summit had initially refused to accept the appointment of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the alliance's new secretary general.

"I was very shocked by the pressure that was brought on us," Kouchner told his interviewer, when asked why he had spoken of his former support for Turkey's European ambitions in the past tense.

Rasmussen made enemies in the Muslim world in 2005 when he defended the freedom of expression of Danish cartoonists who mocked the Prophet Mohammed, and has angered Turkey by refusing to close a Kurdish television channel.

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul delayed talks at the summit by refusing to accept Rasmussen's nomination, and only dropped his veto threat after US President Barack Obama brokered a compromise deal.

Rasmussen has since promised to reach out to the Islamic world, Turkey is to have a NATO deputy secretary general post and Obama came out forcefully in favour of Turkey's EU membership bid.

"It's not for the Americans to decide who comes into Europe or not," Kouchner retorted. "We are in charge in our own house."

The foreign minister, a former Socialist and humanitarian leader who joined Sarkozy's right-wing administration in 2007, said Turkey had been "to say the least, clumsy" in bringing up the issue of the Mohammed cartoons.

Turkey's current government is led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP party, which has its roots in the Islamist movement.

Turkey began negotiations on becoming an EU candidate country in 2005. If it joined it would become the Union's biggest member in terms of population, and its first with a Muslim majority.

France, Germany and Austria have come out against the idea, while Britain and the president of the European Commission, Manuel Barroso, support it.
  

Date created : 2009-04-07