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050626|AP|Turkey Not Willing to Accept New EU Criteria
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26 June 2005 | AP | Istambul

Turkey Not Willing to Accept New EU Criteria for Membership

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would not agree to new conditions for European Union membership.

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

Erdogan rejected any talk of changing the conditions for Turkey's bid, telling reporters late Saturday that "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."

Many European voters are balking 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.

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 the union.

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 the 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.

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