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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 June 2007, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
EU 'faces backlash from Turkey'
By Ben Hammersley
BBC News, Turkey

Flags of Turkey and the EU in front of Istanbul mosque, Turkey, October 2005
EU caution towards Turkish accession may be a factor
The European Union is risking an Islamic backlash in Turkey, according to the EU's enlargement commissioner, Olli Rehn.

A survey showed attitudes in the country souring towards the West.

Mr Rehn told the European Voice weekly: "If you look at the current political situation in the Middle East, in Palestine, in Lebanon, not to speak of Iraq, we don't need another nationalist or Islamist problem in the neighbourhood of Europe."

The survey revealed Turkish approval of Europe to be falling rapidly.

Just 27% of Turks have a favourable opinion of the European Union, compared to 58% in 2004, according to this year's annual global survey by the Pew Research Center.

"The ongoing frustration in Turkey over its on-again, off-again membership negotiations with the EU are vividly reflected in these data," Pew said in the poll report.

'More debate'

EU member states this week opened accession negotiations with Turkey on two new policy areas - statistics and financial control. But after French objections talks were delayed on a third topic - economic and monetary policy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said he wanted to reopen the debate on Turkey's accession when the leaders of the EU member states meet in December.

The French president is not in favour of Turkish entry to the EU, stating that Turkey is not a European country.

Mosque in Istanbul

But Portugal, which takes over the rotating presidency of the EU from 1 July, is in favour of Turkish membership.

Portuguese Europe Minister Manuel Lobo Antunes said Portugal would be trying to get Turkey's membership talks "back on track".

Earlier this week, Turkey's chief negotiator, Ali Babacan, said Ankara hoped the problems would be overcome in the next six months.

"We are not satisfied with the technical justifications that were given to us and we hope that there will be progress in this matter during the Portuguese presidency," he said.

According to the Pew survey, Turkey is currently the most anti-US country in the world.

Only 9% of the country favours the US, compared to 52% in 2000, putting Turkey below the Palestinian territories with 13% US approval, and Pakistan with 15%. In the United Kingdom, 51% approved of the US.

While 37% of Turks like American science and technology, according to the survey, 81% of Turks dislike American ideas about democracy, and 83% dislike American trade habits.

  • Turkey's general election is to be held on 22 July. Until then, the BBC's Ben Hammersley is travelling across Turkey, exploring the political landscape.





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