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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 13:32 GMT
Analysis: Can Turkey fit in?

Turkey's Islamic tradition is the greates obstacle to EU membership Turkey's Islamic tradition may be the greatest obstacle to EU membership

By Ankara correspondent Chris Morris

There are plenty of big issues facing Turkey as it works out how to get on with the European Union including human rights, legal reform and thousands of pages of European regulations.

However, for many people here the most sensitive issue is closer to the stomach: korkorec.

A gut feeling

It is the most popular street food in the country. The fact that it is made of sheep's intestines soaked in fat means that this much-loved dish could could fall foul of EU health standards.

Korkorec: The nation's favourite dish Korkorec: The nation's favourite street dish

Many Turks are just beginning to realise how much would change if they do join the European family, and there are some things which they may be unwilling to give up.

"I suggest to them that they try it. Try it because its really delicious. Spicy, hot, good!" says one korkorec-lover.

Healthy debate

There is, of course, a serious side to all of this, and the last few weeks has seen a growing debate about Kurdish rights and reform of the military. Semih Idiz, the editor of the Star newspaper, welcomes the discussion.

We have to improve human rights and the economy. There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor
Turkish bystander
"People are going round saying, 'You can't do that. Tomorrow we're going to be a member of the European Union', he says.

"Others are saying, 'How can you be a member of the European Union. They're going to interfere in our internal affairs.' This is the debate."

"I personally consider this a very healthy debate because however it is synthesized in the end it is going to be a reflection of what Turkey is."

The road to reform could be very painful. Turkey will have to change its system in profound ways, and some people are worried that the country could lose its soul in the process.

Semih Idiz Semih Idiz: "A very healthy debate"
There are certainly opponents of the whole European ideal. However, most Turks are curious about what change could bring.

One man finds it all a little bit puzzling. "Europe is inviting us in just as we have the Ocalan case to deal with," he says.

"We have to improve human rights and the economy. There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. We have to change that," says another bystander.

Islamic tradition

The most difficult obstacle of all may be Turkey's Islamic tradition; the country is a nation of 60m Muslims.

Turkish membership of the EU would also change the union forever. Europe is growing increasingly multi-cultural, but some people are openly uncomfortable with the prospect of Turkish membership.

The Christian Democrats in Germany, for example, are firmly opposed to Turkish membership.

Turkey must balance its traditions with EU requirements Turkey must balance its traditions with EU requirements
"You will always have conservatism in Europe as you will always have conservatism in Turkey. I think the trend in that direction is not one which will bear out a Christian Democratic outlook in Europe."

That is another debate which is just getting underway. Both Turkey and Europe will have tough choices to make on the long road towards potential membership.

It may never happen, but for the moment Turkey's political leaders are setting out their European stall.
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See also:
16 Feb 99 |  Europe
Special report: The Ocalan file
20 Jan 00 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Hope for Greek-Turkish ties
12 Sep 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Shifting attitudes towards Turkey
10 Dec 99 |  Europe
Analysis: Greek stumbling block
10 Dec 99 |  Europe
Turkey to dominate EU debate
03 Dec 99 |  Europe
New hope for Cyprus

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