Mixed Reaction to Turkey Decision BRUSSELS (Combined Sources)–While Turkish leader Tayyip Recep Erdogan returned home to a hero’s welcome after agreeing to accession terms with the EU–there has been a less enthusiastic reaction in some European capitals.
Erdogan arrived back in Turkey on Saturday–December 18 to a rapturous reception and was hailed as the "conqueror of Europe."
He said–"We did not receive 100 percent of what we wanted–but we can say that we succeeded," according to Le Monde.
Reflecting the momentous nature of the decision–Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said–"Turkey is a very different country than it was two days ago."
But elsewhere in Europe–the reaction has been less positive. Supporters of the populist Northern League Party in Italy took to the streets to protest at the decision. According to media reports–they unfurled banners saying–"Yes to Christian roots."
Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel announced that his country would join France in holding a referendum on Turkey’s accession–adding another potential obstacle in Ankara’s path.
This decision was criticized by Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot who said–"We have never said to the Turks–neither in 1999 nor in 2002–that a referendum would lie at the end of the process. We have to be fair."
And Nicolas Sarkozy–former Finance Minister and rising star of French politics–renewed his call for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey–rather than full membership.
Sarkozy–who hopes to take over from Jacques Chirac as French President in 2007–said–"If Turkey were European–we would know it?I’m for a privileged partnership but I’m reserved about membership–like a large number of notable voices".
"Europe already has difficulty functioning with 25 members. The more members Europe has–the less we will be integrated–the less we will share common values and the more fragile we will be."
France will put all issues to Turkey during negotiations over it joining the European Union–"including that of the Armenian genocide," French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Monday.
"What has to be done now is start membership negotiations which are going to be very long–very difficult–during which we will put all issues on the table–including that of the Armenian genocide–with the hope of obtaining a response from Turkey before membership," he told French radio station RTL.
To add the Armenian issue to a list of others–most notably Ankara’s recognition of the Greek Cypriot government–is seen as a bargaining chip in the membership negotiations that are to begin in October next year–and a way of showing the French public that Turkey is being made to heed Paris’s voice.
Barnier said that Chirac–in supporting Turkey–"is expressing a vision–expressing where the interest of our country–our continent–lies for him." The French president has promised that the final decision on whether Turkey gets to join the European Union or not–as far as French voters are concerned–will come in a referendum at the end of the negotiations.
Cyprus warned over the weekend that it could still block Turkey’s membership bid. Speaking on Cypriot television–President Tassos Papadopoulos said–"The Republic of Cyprus has the right not to consent to the start of entry talks."
Controversy over Cyprus nearly put an end to the deal during last Friday’s negotiations–with Turkey refusing to recognize the republic and the EU insisting that Turkey expand its customs agreement to the new Member States– including Cyprus.
And Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reports that the Kurdish minority in Turkey are disappointed because their hopes to have their language recognized were not raised as an issue. Of the 70 million people in Turkey–20 million are Kurds.
MUCH WORK TO DO
Even Erdogan stressed the amount of difficult work to do. Turkey must now open and close 31 "chapters" during negotiations–covering such areas such as Justice and Home Affairs and Competition.
Any EU member can veto the closing of a chapter leaving much scope for blocking Turkish progress.
And even if the laborious process of agreeing accession is achieved–referendums in France or Austria could still see Turkey falling at the last hurdle.